Handling hazardous chemicals: successful prosecution of restaurant business for failing to provide safe work environment

Handling hazardous chemicals: successful prosecution of restaurant business for failing to provide safe work environment

25 September 2019 Topics: Workplace relations and safety

An unnamed food and catering business pleaded guilty to contravening the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for failing to provide a safe system of work, which exposed a young teenage worker to a hazardous cleaning product.

On 8 January 2018, two young workers were asked to clean the kitchen floor with the ‘Tornado’ cleaning product, which is hazardous and corrosive to human skin. One of the workers suffered a chemical burn to their foot caused by the undiluted Tornado.

The worker had to receive a skin graft for the burn, which later became infected.

The Southport Magistrates Court identified the following shortcomings of the business:

  • The worker was still in high school and had not been formally inducted into the company since commencing work. He had only been shown how to undertake basic duties.
  • The defendant provided instructions for the correct procedure to dilute the cleaning chemical but didn’t ensure that workers complied with the procedure.
  • The defendant had material safety data sheets in the workplace and provided gloves and goggles but didn’t strictly enforce that the casual workers wear closed in leather/rubber style boots.

The defendant was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.

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