Within the hospitality industry, maintaining worker safety is one of the most important roles of any employer's job. This is why business owners implement rigorous training, and ongoing health and safety management.
However, as the below case demonstrates, miscommunication can prevail regardless of preparation, leaving employees exposed to great risks within the workplace.
Background of the case
The plaintiff was employed at a popular fast food takeaway franchise from May 27, 2014. His duties included the daily cleaning of cookers and the weekly cleaning of the air-conditioned (AC) canopy/hood filters that were located above the cooking equipment. The cookers consisted of pots containing hot oil that were used to cook food items.
On November 17, 2017, a shift supervisor instructed the employee to clean both the cookers, and the hood and filters of the AC system – a task he had undertaken for a number of years.
First, the plaintiff cleaned out the four cookers. Once done, he switched them on and lifted the lids to prepare the cookers for service. He was instructed to do this by an assistant manager who said the oil would be spoilt if lids were left closed.
He then fetched a step ladder to help him clean the canopies. Whilst undertaking this task, the oil in the pots was heating up with the lids open. He had at least one foot on top of a cooker when a blackout occurred in the building. As he attempted to step down from his position, his left foot slipped into a pot containing hot oil.
As a result, the plaintiff sustained third degree burns to his leg and his hands, and underwent a skin graft.
What did the court decide?
The court learned that at the time of the incident, the fast food franchisee had a health and safety manual in place which gave specific information on how to properly clean the cookers, hood and filters. This included requirements that stated employees should never stand on cooking equipment when cleaning. However, the plaintiff didn't recall ever seeing the manual before the incident.
After reviewing all evidence, the court concluded that the defendant failed to provide safe working conditions and was negligent in protecting employees from foreseeable risks.
The employee was awarded $60,000 in damages after a 25 per cent reduction from the defendant's guilt plea.
If you've sustained injuries from a workplace accident that wasn't your fault, you too may be eligible for compensation. Get in touch with the workplace compensation lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners to find out more.