Thursday, 19 December 2013  Chicken Treat Collie has been fined $11,000 (plus $1316.00 in costs) over an incident in 2010 where a young worker received serious burns.

Pageys Pty Ltd – trading as Chicken Treat Collie – pleaded guilty last month to failing to provide a safe work environment, and was fined in the Bunbury Magistrates Court last week. The fine was reduced considerably because the employer pleaded guilty and had a limited capacity to pay.

The incident occurred in October 2010, when the 23-year-old female duty manager went to take some peas out of the microwave, which was located at shoulder height.  The peas had been cooked in an unsuitable plastic container; the lid was not secure, and the container was warped and had lost integrity in the microwave and it buckled inwards and slipped in her hand. This resulted in boiling hot water and peas spilling out across the duty manager’s chest.

She sustained deep dermal burns to the left side and superficial burns to the right side and was hospitalised for two days and required to have the burns redressed every second day for the following two weeks. The burns later became infected, resulting in further hospitalisation, surgery and subsequent skin grafts.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said today the employer in this case had shown a worrying lack of concern for the safety of the store’s young workers.

“The court heard that, despite the fact that workers had expressed concerns to management about the danger of boiling water spilling out of the warped container, no other container had been provided,” Mr McCulloch said.

“It is also of concern that Chicken Treat’s head office had provided the store with a written procedure for the safe cooking of peas but it had not been specifically shown to or referred to with any of the employees during training, induction or otherwise.

“The court also heard that there had been two previous incidents at the store involving the removal of peas from the microwave. A previous employee had suffered burns in a similar incident, and another former employee had a near miss as the result of a spill when removing the peas container from the microwave.

“So even the two previous – albeit less serious – incidents did not convince the employer to adopt and enforce a safer system of work for this particular task.

“After the duty manager suffered serious burns in this incident, the employer purchased from a supermarket a more suitable container with a clip lock lid, along with a pair of protective gloves to be used specifically for removing hot items from microwaves.

“It was obviously not difficult or expensive to make this task far safer, but the action was taken too late for the duty manager who had to suffer the painful consequences of serious burns.

“This case should serve as a reminder to all workplaces that safe systems of work need to be in place and enforced at all times, and that workers need to be trained in these safe systems of work.”