The Importance of Robust Health and Safety Procedures in a Professional Kitchen

By Charlotte Dowson, Senior Solicitor in the Accident Claims Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp (www.boltburdonkemp.co.uk)

Andrew Lewis, a chef, suffered serious burns after being covered in boiling stock during a kitchen incident at The Hand and Flowers, Tom Kerridge’s double Michelin starred gastro pub.

A stock boiling urn was leaking so Mr Lewis attempted to fix it by tightening the tap on the urn. Suddenly the tap came away ejecting pressurised boiling stock water all over him.

Mr Lewis suffered extensive burns to both legs, his chest and his hands. He has been left with permanent scarring and claims he now suffers from flashbacks and delayed onset post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.

A claim for personal injury is being made against his former employer and the company responsible for servicing the stock boiling urn, IPM Catering Ltd. The companies are blaming each other for the incident.

An employer’s duty of care to their employees in a professional kitchen

In a busy and high pressurised environment such as a professional kitchen risks to an employee’s health and safety will inevitably arise. Chefs are using sharp knives, working long hours, and handling hot equipment and liquids. Sadly accidents will occur that can’t be fully guarded against.

Ultimately not every accident that occurs in such an environment can be avoided. An employer is not expected to completely eradicate all risks to the health and safety of their employees but they do have a duty of care to minimise these risks. This in turn reduces the risk of an employee sustaining an injury at work.

Under health and safety law the primary responsibility for health and safety in the workplace falls to an employer. There is also an argument raised in this case that the urn had not been serviced properly by those responsible for doing so.

In any event Mr Lewis’ employer, in order to protect him, should have provided him with relevant health and safety training, specific training in relation to use of the urn and appropriate personal protective equipment. A risk assessment and method statement should have been prepared in respect of the operation of the urn. His employer should have also carried out due diligence in respect of the company servicing the urn, making sure services were arranged at appropriate and regular intervals to reduce the risk of a malfunction occurring.

The impact of a successful claim
If Mr Lewis is able to successfully argue that his employer could and should have done more to protect him from the incident occurring and their failure to do so led to him sustaining personal injuries then he will be compensated for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity that he has experienced as well as his incident related past and future financial losses.

There may also be a claim against the company responsible for serving the urn as previously discussed and this may ultimately lead to an apportionment of liability between the companies if both are found to be at fault.

If Mr Lewis’s employer is found to be at fault it would reiterate the importance of good health and safety procedures being put in place in professional kitchens. Employers should use this incident as an opportunity to revisit their health and safety policies and procedures to make sure that they are indeed doing all that is necessary to reduce the risk of their employees being injured during the course of their work.

The importance of an employer protecting their employees’ health and safety

Accidents in the workplace are a bad thing for both employers and employees. If an employee is injured they may need time off work or in very serious cases not return to the workplace at all. In the worst cases, accidents at work can be fatal.

Accidents at work can also affect employees who weren’t injured themselves but who become fearful about what could happen to them. This can also cause low morale within the workforce which isn’t good for productivity.

Put simply, accidents at work can be devastating for employees and employers alike.