Bar owner fined after customer accidentally served line cleaner

Published: 25 Jan 2016

Poor implementation of health and safety policy and risk assessments resulted in a customer accidentally being served beer line cleaner (caustic soda) instead of beer. The bar and its owner have been fined £25,000 as a result. David Caminal suffered “exquisite pain” immediately after swallowing the liquid and was taken to hospital with severe internal injuries. He was placed in an induced coma and eventually had to have surgery to remove his oesophagus.

A failure in the line cleaning system led to the incident, which happened at The New Conservatory in Leeds on 19 July 2014, the Judge said. The court heard Mr Caminal asked to taste a pale ale called ’ Sunbeam’ and upon ingestion began gasping and vomiting. At the time of serving, the bartender was not aware that the line was being cleaned, as the liquid which came out of the pump was a similar colour to the beer.

An investigation revealed a new member of staff had inadvertently turned the beer badge on the pump to face customers prior to the drink being served, not realising turning it the other way indicated it was unavailable.

Passing sentence, District Judge David Kitson said: “A system that relies on a beer badge not being inadvertently turned around the other way and staff being aware potentially exposes people to risk.

Director Nick Bird admitted failing to protect the health and safety of customers and was sentenced earlier. The company and Mr Bird, 31, of Back York Street, Leeds, were also ordered to pay costs of almost £18,000.

 Implications for clients:

In order to ensure that legal compliance is met and to reduce the likelihood of potential repercussions, the following criteria MUST be met:

A) Ensure that the company policy and risk assessments cover the cleaning of beer lines

B) The risk assessment must highlight:

  1. Control measures for the method of cleaning of beer lines.
  2. The need for PPE to be worn by staff conducting the beer line cleaning.
  3. The actual line cleaning to be conducted prior to the bar opening for service.
  4. An effective warning system to be put in place to inform bar staff that beer line cleaning is in process.
  5. The testing procedure to verify that the beer lines are effectively cleaned must be done in conjunction with manufacturer’s instruction of beer line cleaning chemical.
  6. It is imperative that the beer line must be thoroughly cleaned and tested with the all clear to be given prior to serving of beer.
  7. Ensure that only trained members of staff conduct beer line cleaning process with the line cleaning chemical to be stored in a secured area to avoid unauthorised access.
  8. Review the beer line cleaning risk assessment in line with the company policy.
  9. Relevant members of the team must be made aware of the contents of the beer line cleaning risk assessment.

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