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Waitress abandoned after chemical accident

Stuart Spear12/03/2014 - 12.00

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The girl was injured whilst using the dishwasher
The girl was injured whilst using the dishwasher

A restaurant owner has been fined for health and safety offences after his 16-year-old waitress was given £20 and pushed onto the street after being half blinded by caustic chemicals.

The incident, which happened in September 2012 in Sudbury, Suffolk, involved the waitress attempting to hand dose a large industrial dish washer with a five gallon drum of sodium hydroxide, which should have been automatically dosed.

Immediately after the accident the victim was given money for a cab and put out onto the street where she was told to call her mother. She made her way to hospital but did not suffer long-term damage. She contacted the local authority five days after the incident. 

‘She was only 16 and she was trying to pick up 5 gallons of liquid it slipped out of her hands and as it struck the ground it fountained up through the hole into her eyes, into her mouth and into her face,’ said prosecuting senior EHO Robert McDermott at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils.

Mr Halit Ozer, the owner of Huffers Café, 32 King Street, Sudbury, Suffolk was fined £4,365, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £76 and paid council costs of £2,100 following the accident.

‘The problem is that the person he put in charge was a friend and refugee who should not technically have been working. When coupled with lack of procedures and systems of work and letting your mate run the place he panicked a bit and pushed her out of the door with £20,’ said Mr McDermott.

Mr Ozer had failed to report the accident or complete RIDDOR. Investigating EHOs found a number of further health and safety offences including a failure to provide adequate first aid equipment along with a first aider and two breaches to the control of substances hazardous to health regulations.  

The case was further complicated by Mr Ozer failing to turn up for a number of court appearances. Offences originally set against his company Liteball Ltd were then laid against Mr Ozer in order for a warrant to be issued or his arrest. He chose to change his plea to guilty at the last moment.

An additional fine of £120 was levied against the holding company Liteball Ltd.

Sodium Hydroxide generates heat once water is added and can cause blindness if splashed in the eyes. 

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