Fast food giant McDonalds has paid out more than £20,000 after one of its employees was partially blinded by an acid-based cleaner.According to Wandsworth Council, the court fine was the result of the first successful prosecution against McDonalds in the UK over an accident in the workplace. The burger chain was taken to court by the council under safety at work laws after a member of staff suffered burns to his face and eyes that has left him with only around 55 per cent vision in his left eye. The injuries were caused when the man, who was working as a maintenance operative at the company’s Wandsworth Bridge drive-thru restaurant, used an acid-based drain cleaner to unblock a waste pipe. Last month, South Western magistrates court heard that on June 23, 2008, the employee, with the full knowledge of his manager, bought a corrosive chemical drain cleaner from a nearby DIY store. The first attempt at using the sulphuric acid-based cleaner did not work and so the employee was given money by a manager to buy a second bottle. When this bottle was poured into the pipe, its contents blew back into the employee’s face and both his eyes. He was given first aid at the scene before being taken to hospital by ambulance. Following treatment he recovered almost all the vision in his right eye but much less in his left eye. The council’s environment spokesman Councillor Sarah McDermott said: “Their member of staff was given money by his managers to buy a very hazardous product. “No risk assessment was carried out to ensure this product was safe to use, he was not properly supervised while using it, he was not given any training to reduce the risk of an accident, nor was he provided with protective clothing. This was a serious lapse in the company’s internal procedures.” A spokesman for McDonalds said: “We are very sorry for the eye injury incurred by our staff member. We regret that on this occasion our stringent safety procedures were not followed and we have taken steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” So, despite Lord Young’s pronouncement that retail environments are basically low risk and his recommendation to government that employers should be allowed to cut back on risk assessment, reality bites back in the shape of a partially blinded worker. If highly successful ‘public spirited’ firms are committing such breaches of health and safety legislation, we fear for the welfare of the hundreds of thousands of workers employed by small firms when our government seems hell-bent on allowing a laissez-faire attitude to health and safety issues to prevail. If you have been hurt or injured at work please contact us for a completely free, no obligation review of your case on 0800 163 978.
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