Ikea filmed Peterborough warehouse workers with cameras in toilets in crackdown on drug use

Ikea has apologised after inadvertently filming workers in its bathrooms.
Credit: PA
Ikea said it was "sincerely sorry" for the inadvertent recordings Credit: PA

Workers at an Ikea warehouse were filmed in the toilets after cameras fitted to detect drug use were dislodged and accidentally began recording them, an investigation has found.

The 10 cameras had been installed in a void in the ceiling above the bathrooms as the furniture superstore tried to crack down on suspicions that employees were using false urine samples to disguise drug-taking, it said.

The devices were intended to be pointed at the gaps above the ceilings in the bathrooms at its Peterborough distribution centre, and the corridors outside, and would only begin recording when they detected motion.

But when ceiling tiles were moved, two cameras became dislodged and "inadvertently recorded footage of the communal areas of two bathrooms", filming one woman and one man, said Ikea.

The chain has apologised to the workers involved and said it had changed its procedures, as well as reporting its findings to the Information Commissioner's Office.

'Concerns over drugs on site'

The cameras were fitted in November 2015 and the recording of the bathroom footage took place in April and July 2017.

"While the intention at the time was to ensure the health and safety of co-workers, we understand the fact that colleagues were filmed unknowingly in these circumstances will have caused real concern; and for this we are sincerely sorry," said a spokesman for Ikea.

“Their installation followed serious concerns about the use of drugs on site, which, owing to the nature of work carried out at the site, could have very serious consequences for the safety of our co-workers."

The concerns centred on drug-taking and the use of false urine samples to evade detection, said the company, adding that it had tried other measures without success.

"The cameras placed within the voids were positioned only to record irregular activity in the ceiling voids. They were not intended to, and did not, record footage in the toilet cubicles themselves.

"However, as a result of ceiling tiles becoming dislodged, two cameras inadvertently recorded footage of the communal areas of two bathrooms for a period of time in 2017. 

"The footage was not viewed at the time and was only recovered as part of these investigations," added the spokesman.

Ikea said it had revised its policies "to set out very strict controls for their use at any of our sites”.

It said its investigation had confirmed the cameras were locked in a fixed position, meaning they would only record if there was activity in the ceiling void. They did not record sound.

It also found access to the footage had been restricted to three people and only one viewed it - which was before the cameras had become dislodged and recorded the bathrooms.

Ikea brought in a third-party team of investigators to recover the bathroom recordings and review them "in a carefully controlled environment", it said.

The footage in which individuals appeared "was only ever viewed by the experts carrying out the investigation", added the chain.