This month we saw Pret-a-Manger fined £800,000 after leaving a cafe worker locked in their walk-in freezer!

On 29 July, a member of staff became trapped in a commercial freezer which had a running temperature of 18 degrees below zero, while only dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. After moving around trying to keep warm she attempted to tear up a cardboard box to cover the vent, but found her hands were too cold. Thankfully, the woman was saved by a colleague who found her nearly two and a half hours later and rushed her straight to hospital with hypothermia. It is not mentioned in the report if the member of staff suffered any long term health issues, despite being trapped in such a horrific situation.

Following an investigation by the Westminster City Council’s Health and Safety team, the cafe chain pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The investigation found that no risk assessment had been performed and complaints of the door release working from the inside had been submitted stretching back as far as 2020, where another worker had become trapped!

Ensuring your staff have a safe environment to work is paramount. As an employee, you are entitled to refuse to work in an area which you reasonably believe to be unsafe without suffering a detriment. It is worth bearing in mind that the fine was initially set at £1.6 million but was discounted based on the early guilty plea. Not the warm welcome we would all hope for at work!