The 21-year-old employee Angela Buza was severely injured after slipping and falling onto a bucket of hot oil at the Warragul McDonald’s store in east Victoria in November 2013.
A co-worker had been transferring the burning hot oil from a deep fryer into buckets, a practice that had been occurring ever two weeks.
The store manager had not intervened and Buza slipped on some of the oil that had spilled on the floor, fell into a bucket of oil and suffered severe burns requiring multiple skin grafts.
Store operator Wilbridge Securities, which runs seven other McDonald’s outlets across Gippsland, pleaded guilty to a charge of failure of supervision brought about by the safety watchdog, Worksafe.
The McDonald’s case should serve as a lesson for other business operators to ensure that employees are safe at work and best practice safety methods are being used, says Francessca Lee, employment lawyer with McDonald Murholme.
“Employers should take notice that they have a clear duty to supervise their employees at work to ensure that there are no imminent risks to their health and safety,” Lee told HC Online.
“Employers should also frequently review their practices to ensure that the safest method is being adopted,” she says.
Although store operator Wilbridge Securities pleaded guilty to failing to supervise its employees, the court opted not to record a conviction.
Lee says for an employer to be charged with negligence, it must be shown that they were aware of the liability or risk caused but failed to do anything about it.
“It is possible that there was no conviction recorded as the employer was not yet aware of hazard in this instance,” she says.
Employers can be slapped with hefty fines for breaching the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act, as maximum penalties for a breach of are now $1,075,050 for a body corporate and $215,010 for a natural person for individuals.
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