Series of accidents in Carrefour DC prompts strike

A series of seven workplace accidents at a distribution centre (DC) for grocery retailer Carrefour prompted some members of the workforce to spontaneously go on strike in late January. The accidents all occurred within a two-week period at the DC in the Belgian town of Nijvel, but workplace accidents are not uncommon in warehouses elsewhere too.

On Monday 27 January, yet another accident at Logistics Nivelle – the Carrefour Belgium DC in Nijvel – was the final straw for some employees and they spontaneously downed tools. Carrefour outsources the management activities of this DC and the transport to its stores to logistics service provider Kuehne + Nagel, according to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.

In the latest incident, a truck driver from the transport company Jost had failed to adequately secure the wheels of his vehicle during the loading process, and a DC employee was injured when the truck started moving. The accident prompted the employees in the dry groceries department to immediately down tools. So far, employees in the DC’s fresh food department are still working as normal.

“The company is not investing in the depot sufficiently to guarantee employee safety,” commented Didier Lebbe from the CNE union. “Nobody is shouldering their responsibility and the subcontractors refuse to invest in the long-term future because the contract is reviewed every two or three years. They are all passing the buck. Meanwhile, Carrefour continues to exert pressure on its suppliers to reduce their prices.”

Intern seriously injured

In the Netherlands, a Tilburg-based company was recently found liable for a warehouse accident in which a 15-year-old intern was seriously injured. The boy was operating an electric pallet truck when his left foot became trapped between the truck and a wall, leaving him with five broken toes, crushed metatarsals and torn ligaments. Two of his toes ended up having to be amputated.

The court ruled that the company should not have allowed the boy to operate the pallet truck because he was not properly qualified to do so. Moreover, the employer neglected to continuously supervise him during his work. Because this represented a breach of the health and safety laws, the court fined the company a total of €40,000, which included a conditional fine of €20,000.