Tuesday, 30 November 2021

KFC fined nearly £1m after workers scalded in Teesside

LONDON: A fast food restaurant has been fined nearly £1m after a catalogue of errors left two workers with agonising burns from boiling hot gravy. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) worker Joshua Arnold was scalded across his arms when a boiling tub of gravy tilted and spilled as he took it out of a microwave oven. The 16-year-old had paper towels put over his injuries and was sent to hospital alone in a taxi instead of an ambulance. Teesside Crown Court heard how two bosses went to see how he was, then made a phone call to ask what first-aid they should administer. Stephen Uttley, prosecuting, told the court how Joshua kept his arms under running water for 20 minutes and was told to put wet paper towels over his injuries. The towels dried over the raw burns, and had to be peeled off in an agonising procedure at hospital – where he had been sent by himself. After Joshua’s accident, CCTV footage shows him at one point sitting on the floor as he nurses his injuries, and colleagues dodging around him. The accident at the Teesside Retail Park restaurant, Stockton, in July 2014 was followed by a similar one at nearby Wellington Square, also in Stockton.

The court heard during the second incident, in December 2015, a more experienced worker, Heather Storer, was also burnt by red-hot gravy. Mr Uttley said she suffered third-degree burns to her right arm, hands, chest and stomach as she lifted a tub from the microwave. Judge Sean Morris heard how neither employee used gauntlets to protect themselves from injury as the fast food company guidelines dictate. Joshua, now 19 and working in a duty free shop at Stansted Airport, has settled on an out-of-court compensation package with KFC. He said he had never been shown any guidance on how to carry out the heating-up task safely, and had done it just once before, supervised. The court heard how there should have been two green gloves and a spare set at all restaurants, but there was just one at Teesside Park. Mr Uttley told Judge Morris how at Wellington Square, CCTV footage and Ms Storer’s statement indicate there were no gauntlets at all. The company admitted two charges of failing in a duty of care to employees, and was ordered by Teesside Crown Court to pay a £800,000 fine as well as an £150,000 fine. They were also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £18,699.17 and a victim surcharge of £120.00. Sada Naqshbandi, defending, said: “I want to apologise to both, and express regret for their injuries and suffering.”

In the UK, the company has 880 restaurants – 235 owned by them, and the rest franchises – and has an annual turnover of around £450m. Miss Naqshbandi said: “It is not a case where there has been cost-cutting at the expense of safety, or where there has been concealment of any nature.” Miss Naqshbandi told the court how the company employs a specialist health and safety team, and there are now warning stickers in microwaves. Ms Storer had worked at Wellington Square and a branch at Wolviston service station of the A19, and had seen many people not use gloves. In a statement, she said: “There seems to be a complete inability to use any personal protection equipment. It doesn’t seem to be there.” Imposing fines totalling £950,000, Judge Morris said: “It was lucky it wasn’t worse. It was just luck. Kitchens are dangerous places. “The two cases are similar in that burns occurred as a result of inadequate supervision and the inadequate provision of safety equipment.” After the case Councillor Steve Nelson, from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s, said the fine sent out a ‘huge message’ to companies that they are responsible for their employees’ safety.

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