Coast pub slapped with $75k fine


By: Leah Fineran

A SURFERS Paradise pub has been fined $75,000 after two chefs suffered chemical burns to their eyes and body while cleaning a greasy, blocked sink.

The head chef and an apprentice chef at Fiddlers Green Irish Bar and Restaurant in Surfers Paradise were hospitalised with severe burns after pouring commercial-grade caustic soda into a kitchen drain.

The restaurant's operator, Garris New Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty in Southport Industrial Magistrates Court to breaching the Workplace Health and Safety Act.

The court heard staff had warned management about blocked drains in the past but nothing had been done to fix the problem until the two chefs took matters into their own hands.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland prosecutor Lisa McConnell said the two staff members did not read the chemical label or a material safety data sheet before pouring the caustic soda into the drain.

She told the court the contents of the drain ''erupted like a volcano'' and splattering the ceiling.

Both workers felt instant pain as the alkaline substance coated their skin.

At the time, a Queensland Fire and Rescue spokesman said the caustic soda reacted with oil and grease in the kitchen's sink.

The 20-year-old apprentice chef suffered burns to her face, thighs, left arm and eyes.

The head chef suffered burns to his face, arms, left leg and left eye and required a skin graft to his knee.

The court heard the company failed to prepare and implement a safe system of work in the use of chemicals at the restaurant.

Ms McConnell said the investigation into the incident highlighted the importance of training workers to use chemicals safely when unblocking drains.

Magistrate Brian Kilmartin said the restaurant operator was ''irresponsible'' for ignoring the blocked-drain problem and failing to ensure the health and safety of workers.

In sentencing he recognised the company had co-operated with the investigation and had now put in place detailed safety procedures.

He fined Garris New $75,000 and ordered the company pay investigation, professional and court costs totalling $3757.