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Irish Distillers fined €40,000 after employee death

Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers unit has been fined €40,000 (US$48,600) following an incident at its Cork warehouse that led to the death of a worker.

Jameson Irish whiskey
Jameson Irish whiskey is owned by Pernod Ricard

Ireland’s statutory body the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said Irish Distillers received the fine at Cork Circuit Cork yesterday (23 February) after pleading guilty to breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work General Application Regulations 2007.

The fine was in relation to an incident on 12 March 2018 when staff member Dominic Knowles died after an “industrial accident” in Dungourney, County Cork, where Pernod Ricard owns a large warehousing complex. The employee, who was in his 40s, was injured by a forklift.

An Irish Distillers spokesperson said: “Irish Distillers pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Court to two technical charges in respect of health and safety at its Dungourney facility. Dominic Knowles was a valued colleague and friend, and Irish Distillers would like to express its sincerest sympathies to the Knowles family.

“We are committed to ensuring the highest health and safety standards across all our Irish Distillers sites, operations and facilities and we will continue to work closely with the Irish Health and Safety Authority on all safety matters.”

In relation to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, the HSA said Irish Distillers failed to identify a hazard in the workplace, specifically the staging of whiskey casks by forklift operations outside the warehouse. The firm had failed to assess the risks presented by the hazard and did not possess a written assessment of the risks, the authority noted.

Furthermore, Irish Distillers failed to ensure that appropriate traffic management systems were drawn up and followed when equipment, specifically a forklift, was moving around a work area, the HSA said.

HSA chief inspector, Mark Cullen, said: “The circumstances of this tragic incident should be a warning to all employers to make sure that they manage and conduct their work activities to ensure the safety of their employees. In particular, as can be seen in this case, it is important that safe systems of work are in place to ensure that persons carrying out the work can do so in a safe manner.”

Based near Pernod Ricard’s Midleton Distillery, where Jameson is produced, the Dungourney maturation site began a €100m (US$106m) expansion in 2017.

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