Employment practices at Sports Direct Contents

5Health and safety issues

57.The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and associated regulations, imposes duties on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees. In addition, the Act requires employers to conduct their undertaking so as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. The net result is that both the agencies and Sports Direct owe duties to the workers who work in Shirebrook.84 We heard disturbing evidence on health and safety conditions at the Shirebrook warehouse and at the Sports Direct shops. The following extract is from a Freedom of Information request by Unite to East Midlands Ambulance Service:

A total of 110 ambulances or paramedic cars were dispatched to the Shirebrook warehouse’s postcode between 1 January 2013 and 19 April 2016 with 50 cases classified as “life-threatening”, including chest pain, breathing problems, convulsions, fitting and strokes, and five calls from women suffering pregnancy difficulties, including one woman who gave birth in the toilet in the warehouse.85

58.The following information was obtained from a Freedom of Information request by Unite to Bolsover District Council:

There were 115 incidents from 1 January 2010 to 19 April 2016, including an amputation of a finger, a fractured neck, a crushed hand, and hand, wrist, back and head injuries. Twelve of the incidents were listed as “major” injuries, with 79 injuries leading to absences from work of over seven days.86

59.RIDDOR stands for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013, which puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises to report certain serious workplace accidents and near misses.87 Steve Turner told us about the large number and extent of RIDDOR cases at Shirebrook, citing over 80 statutory incidents reported to the local authority, which required workers to be off work for over seven days. He said:

Where there are issues here is the crossover between the Health and Safety Executive and the local authority reporting mechanisms, and enforcement and visitation. You get very few inspections, and this is more about cuts to local services and the way in which the environmental health services are responsible for warehouses, as opposed to the Health and Safety Executive, so something that we may want to look at would be a closer liaison between the Health and Safety Executive and its resources and the environmental health officers in warehouse operations. Because 80 incidents, over a defined period of time, some of which are very serious and cause people to be off for long periods of time, should be raising concern.88

60.When asked to respond to the points made above, Pam Brown, the Chief Executive and Partnership Manager at Bolsover District Council, wrote:

The Council from an Environmental Health perspective and under their Health and Safety legislation would be involved regarding the number of RIDDOR cases across the district of Bolsover and have shared information to date via the Freedom of Information requests. This would mean liaison with the HSE in terms of reporting.89

This response is inadequate, in our view, as it does not comment on the high number of reported RIDDOR cases, nor does it give any reassurances about the preventative steps that Bolsover District Council is taking to reduce the number of these cases.

61.We are concerned at the number of RIDDOR cases, the number and frequency of ambulance visits to Shirebrook warehouse, and the personal testimonies recounting health and safety breaches. We invite Mr Ashley and the agencies to review the health and safety provisions in the warehouse, to ensure that workers’ health and safety are not put at risk as a result of working for Sports Direct, and to report back to us with their findings. We also encourage Bolsover District Council and the Health and Safety Executive to take a more active role in overseeing that health and safety provisions are being correctly adhered to.

84 Agency workers are supposed to have the same level of health and safety protection as direct employees as a result of the Temporary Workers Directive, 91/383/EC.

85 Unite written evidence, not published

86 Unite written evidence, not published

87 HSE, accessed 19 July 2016

88 Q40

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

21 July 2016