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Fractured skull from a “wholly preventable” catering slip

A kitchen worker fractures her skull. Injured member of staff unlikely to work again. Prosecuted employer ordered to pay over £36,000 including prosecution costs.

On hearing a prosecution case against a retailer arising from a slip accident in a store restaurant the District Judge said.

“This was a very serious accident, one which was wholly preventable. Every employer has a duty under law to protect its employees from physical harm – something that [the company] blatantly failed to do. There had been four similar accidents in their kitchen during the previous 12 months, yet they still failed to act.”

When a Local Authority Health & Safety Inspector visited the restaurant to investigate the circumstances surrounding the serious injury sustained by a member of staff he quickly became concerned that the floor surface in the kitchen was very slippery with even the smallest amounts of water or grease on it.

Partial matting and bare kitchen floor tiles

Partial matting and bare kitchen floor tiles

The inspector found that the tiled floor appeared to be in good condition yet it still felt slippery even when the tiles looked to be clean and dry. When just small amounts of water got onto the floor it was found to be very slippery. To make matters worse, some areas of the kitchen floor sloped, increasing the slip risk. Kitchen staff could be seen walking with a very peculiar gait to try to avoid slipping. Floor ‘safety’ mats had been put down in some parts of the kitchen, such as in the dish wash area, but these were slippery to walk on too, especially when wet. Cleaners had removed these mats at the time of the worker’s accident, leaving her to walk on the slippery tiled floor that quickly became contaminated with food waste, water and oily residues.

The worker experienced an uncontrollable slip and hit her head on the hard tiled floor. She was rushed to hospital where she drifted in and out of consciousness, suffered seizures and spent a lengthy period in the hospital’s high dependency unit.

the safety matting

The safety matting

The company’s safety records examined by the Inspector showed that there had been other slip incidents in the area but the response had been to provide the most heavily contaminated areas, such as the dish was, with matting – matting that was itself slippery, especially when wet. Scientists from the Health and Safety Laboratory examined the tiled floor surface and the matting and confirmed that the Inspector was right to conclude that risk of slipping was unacceptably high because of the lack of slip resistance of the tiles and the matting. The floor surface was clearly not fit for the purpose

The company were also aware of numerous other slip accidents in similar situations at their other sites around the country. The Inspector served an Improvement Notice on the company to require them to deal with the slip risks to employees. After a number of other options were consider by the company, but concluded to be inadequate or inappropriate, they eventually replaced the floor surface with one that was suitable for use in an area where the total elimination of floor contaminants would never be possible. The new floor was specified to provide enough grip, even in wet or contaminated conditions.

2013-10-17