Supermarket goes on trial accused of failing to keep staff safe at South Yorkshire store where man fell to his death

Anthony Hopkins, 58, fell to his death at the Iceland store in Sycamore Road, Rotherham on October 28, 2013
Anthony Hopkins, 58, fell to his death at the Iceland store in Sycamore Road, Rotherham on October 28, 2013

A supermarket has gone on trial accused of failing to take 'adequate' steps to keep its South Yorkshire staff safe, after a 58-year-old contractor suffered fatal injuries when he fell through a suspended ceiling.

The Iceland supermarket store in Sycamore Road, Rotherham had been open for around 10 months, when air filtration technician, Anthony Hopkins, arrived at around midday on October 28, 2013 to change the filters on the store's air conditioning units.

Sheffield Crown Court heard how on arrival at the store Mr Hopkins, who was carrying out the job on behalf of his employee D & E Filtration Ltd, was shown to the air conditioning unit and provided with a step-ladder to open the hatch door - where the loft ladder leading up to the mezzanine floor where the unit was located.

Giving evidence at court this morning, Wendy Stone, who was the store manager at the time of the incident, explained how a few minutes after Mr Hopkins went through the hatch door she heard an 'almighty thud' and realised he had fallen through the suspended ceiling where the unit was based.

Despite a quick response from a First Responder and ambulance crews, Mr Hopkins died at around 1.05pm that afternoon from the traumatic head injuries he suffered in the fall.

Prosecuting, Nicholas De La Poer, told the court: "The ensuing investigation into how this tragic event occurred uncovered what the Crown says was a failure on the part of Iceland to take adequate steps to keep Mr Hopkins and others in his position safe."

He added: "Access to the air conditioning units required a person to climb a ladder, which was not fit for purpose, and cross a floor area which was narrow at points and had a number of trip hazards on it.

"Critically, the fragile surface through which Mr Hopkins fell was not guarded by a handrail. Given the lack of any handrail separating the solid floor from the suspended ceiling tiles it is possible to see, says the Crown, how a person might step on it thinking it would take their weight.

"This part of Iceland’s store in Rotherham presented a risk of injury or death to anyone accessing it. The Crown’s case is that this risk was obvious to anyone - including Iceland whose shop it was - who took the time to check properly for hazards."

Mr De La Poer told jurors the Crown also allege that documentation provided by Iceland relating to health and safety checks carried out at the beginning of October 2013 were actually written in the weeks following Mr Hopkins' death on October 28 - despite them showing the date October 1.

He added that the Crown do not allege that Iceland created the falsified document.

Iceland face two counts of breaching their duty to ensure that employees at the Rotherham store are protected from risk.

The trial continues.

MP Rachel Reeves.

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