HEALTH AND SAFETY UPDATE - RECENT PROSECUTION
Leeds Magistrates Court recently heard how an employee in a fast food take-away establishment was seriously injured and spent four weeks in the burns unit at hospital.
Circumstances leading up to the accident were that the employee had been draining a chip fryer and his normal practice would be to switch on the machine before emptying the oil into a plastic container before taking it down into the cellar.
However, on this occasion, because the cellar did not have a working light, the court heard how he had to carry the container of oil with one hand, using the light from his mobile phone to guide him. As he tried to empty the container in the cellar, he slipped on the floor, covering himself with hot oil causing severe burns. He then collapsed to the floor where he suffered further injuries from the oil that had been spilt.
When the Proprietor learned of the incident, he told staff not to call an ambulance; but subsequently attended the shop and took the employee to hospital in a taxi. It is understood that the Proprietor told the employee to tell hospital staff that he sustained his injuries at home.
The employee needed extensive skin grafts and will continue receiving treatment for the foreseeable future, which could include further surgery.
The Proprietor admitted breaching health and safety regulations and was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was fined £10,000 and has to pay £5,000 costs plus a £150 victim surcharge.
What lessons can be learnt?
This case acts as a reminder of the importance of the following:
Take a moment to walk around your premises and carry out a hazard spotting exercise. Things to look out for would include:
- fire doors wedged open,
- obstructions in corridors and fire escape routes,
- slip and trip hazards,
- missing or damaged safety signs,
- PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) not being worn
- damaged equipment/pallets,
- items stored dangerously,
- damaged and missing guarding,
- activities where people are putting themselves at risk (such as poor manual handling techniques, failing to use guarding),
- sufficient illumination and ventilation
Check that all work equipment is in a safe condition, and where appropriate, has been inspected by a ‘Competent Person’.
Having systems in place to manage Health & Safety is mandatory. Typically, this will involve a hierarchy of step, as follows:
- Health & Safety management system
- Written Health and Safety Policy
- Written risk assessments covering the significant hazards
- Safe systems of work
- Surveillance where necessary
- Trained employees at all levels.
- Adequate ongoing monitoring and inspection
When all the above is working in harmony, the likelihood of anything going wrong is minimised.