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Catering and kitchen injury claims

Solicitors in London

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Catering and kitchen injury claims

Commercial kitchens are a notoriously dangerous environment. Where water, oil, and flames combine with noise, speed and people there is always the prospect of an accident happening. There are thousands of kitchens in the hospitality and catering industry in the UK, in restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels, and some engage a low paid workforce with high staff turnover. The challenge is to train all staff in safe practices so they are not a danger to themselves or colleagues, and to ensure that the working environment is as safe as it reasonably can be.

Dangers arising from a slippery kitchen floor

One particular danger, which causes the most accidents in the kitchen, is the slippery floor. All kinds of liquids and substances end up on the floor of a busy kitchen, but attention to safety and observing proper drills will greatly reduce the risk of kitchen workers slipping and suffering injury. A kitchen is a place of hard surfaces and edges, and busy kitchen workers will often be carrying hot or heavy items, so a slipping accident can sometimes rest in a serious injury. The Health and Safety Executive recognises the difference safety flooring can make, and has published guidelines for employers in how to make the floor surface of their kitchens low risk for slips.

Avoidable injuries in the kitchen

Another occupational hazard for chefs and kitchen workers is the risk of burns and cuts. Burns can be from the oven, hob or other hot surface or pot and pan. Cuts are common from use of the array of very sharp knives and slicing machines used in catering. Of course all chefs accept the risk of a scald, burn or cut from a moment of inattention, and nobody else will usually be to blame for that, but sometimes the lack of concentration is caused by fatigue from long hours (that perhaps breach the Working Time Directive). Other times the injury will be caused by the carelessness of a colleague, for which the employer will be liable, or a system failure which exposes the worker to a foreseeable risk.

Risks to front of house restaurant staff

Waiters and waitresses spend much of their time entering and leaving kitchens and there needs to be a safe system for them to collect trays, plates, food and drink and to pass between the kitchen and the front of house without collisions and slips. A surprisingly high number of establishments seem to have doors to the kitchen that open both ways but contain no window, so waiters can crash into each other.

Injuries occurring at factory stage

The food production industry is highly mechanised and often operates a factory model, where workers have a set task which is repeated endlessly, and with output targets to meet. Unless planned carefully, with appropriate variation and breaks, this work can cause repetitive strain injuries.

Osbornes has acted for very many chefs, waiters, pot washers and other kitchen workers. Unless the accident was caused by the injured person’s own carelessness the claim will usually be successful.

A recent case

Mrs B was one such client. She loved her job running a kitchen and spent most of her spare time looking after her disabled children. She suffered a nasty and entirely avoidable injury at work when the industrial dishwasher broke down and started leaking water onto the kitchen floor. She reported the problem but her employers failed to repair or replace it. As a result she continued to use it and mopped up the water as best she could, but a few days later there was a pool of water she had not noticed and she slipped on it, landing other elbow and suffering a bad fracture. As a result she needed surgery, was not able to work for months, and was left with a disability that meant she could no longer do the heavier work in the kitchen. She became depressed because she missed the job she so enjoyed and she was not able to look after her disabled son for the period of her own rehabilitation. Her employers admitted liability and she was compensated for the injury, her loss of earnings and for the psychological and domestic effect on her.

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