// Ocado has been ordered to pay £20,000 to an ex-employee who resigned after his safety warnings were ignored
// Technician Thomas Cooley raised several concerns, including over fire safety, at Ocado’s warehouse
Ocado has been ordered to pay £20,000 to an ex-employee who resigned after his fire safety warnings were ignored in one of its warehouses.
Managers at the online grocer ignored technician Thomas Cooley’s warnings that cardboard materials and pallets were blocking fire exits and access to fire extinguishers at one of its sites, the employment tribunal heard.
Instead Cooley was marked out as a “complainer” and is alleged to have been forced out of the business in a “witch hunt”.
Ocado has suffered a series of fires at distribution centres, which has cost the firm millions in lost sales. Its robotic warehouse in Andover was destroyed in February 2019 after a fire broke out whilst a blaze took hold of Ocado’s Erith warehouse in July last year caused by a robot collision.
Cooley told the tribunal that he flagged a number of safety failings at the grocer including the safety switch on a conveyor belt being blocked, and being asked to clean under a lift that had not been disconnected from the power supply.
However, he said after raising concerns he was given cleaning jobs and received abusive messages on the company radio system.
The judgement said: “As a result of this the claimant’s mental health deteriorated, he suffered anxiety, nightmares and dreaded going to work. Ultimately, he had suicidal thoughts. He resigned his position due to his mental health and underwent counselling and took medication to assist him.”
The judge ruled his resignation amounted to constructive dismissal and ordered Ocado to pay Cooley £20,000.
The grocer is asking for the claim to be reconsidered on the basis that it did not receive any paperwork related to the case.
The judgement stated Ocado was sent the claim on Jan 12 and a further letter was sent on March 18. The grocer did not file a response to the claim or appear at the tribunal hearing to defend itself.
A spokesman for Ocado told The Telegraph: “We did not receive notification of this claim at the time. As such, we are currently investigating and have applied for reconsideration. We await this decision and will not be commenting any further at this stage.”