In a concerning incident, a Pret A Manger employee endured an agonizing two-and-a-half-hour ordeal trapped inside a freezer set at -18C. The incident, which took place in July 2021 at the chain’s Victoria coach station location, resulted in the renowned eatery receiving a £800,000 penalty.
The staff member, dressed in a casual T-shirt and jeans at the time, desperately attempted to maintain warmth by staying active. Unfortunately, she started experiencing severe breathing troubles and numbness in her legs and feet. As her situation worsened, she made an effort to protect herself from the freezing air by using a cardboard box filled with chocolate croissants. Sadly, the cold left her hands unable to dismantle the box.
This grave incident highlighted lapses in Pret A Manger’s risk assessment procedures for employees working in temperature-controlled settings. Digging deeper, records from the company revealed that this was not an isolated event. Over the past 19 months, there were several incidents related to malfunctioning or frozen push buttons in their freezers. Notably, an incident in January 2020 at the same outlet also saw an employee trapped due to a non-operational internal door release mechanism.
Responding to the grievous breach in safety protocols, the sandwich chain admitted guilt at Westminster Magistrates Court, acknowledging a violation of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Councillor Aicha Less, a prominent figure in public protection and licensing, expressed her shock at the details of the case, emphasizing the importance of basic safety measures.
Councillor Less urged businesses to heed this warning. She emphasized that the hefty fine should serve as a reminder of the dire outcomes that can result from neglecting basic safety. The council’s commitment remains clear: ensuring the utmost health and safety standards for all and providing necessary education to staff.
Reacting to the unfortunate incident, a Pret A Manger representative expressed deep regret. The spokesperson acknowledged the traumatic experience the employee underwent and assured that thorough reviews are being conducted. Collaborative efforts with equipment manufacturers aim to prevent such occurrences in the future. The company also conveyed their commitment to refining existing protocols and has been working closely with Westminster City Council throughout their investigation.
The Workers Union Says…
“We are committed to the health and safety of all employees. We believe that a safe workplace isn’t a privilege, but a fundamental right. No job is worth risking a life for, and it is the employer’s responsibility to provide conditions that protect workers from harm. We will continue to push for stringent safety measures, including proper training, equipment, and oversight, to ensure that our members go home in the same condition they came to work. Safety is a shared responsibility, but it starts at the top.”