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Managing controlled temperature environments

It is common in the food industry to have specific freezer units to maintain the temperature at a certain level in the routine working environment. These controlled temperature environments place a responsibility upon employers to protect their employees from cold or heat.  

A court in London recently heard a case where an employer had neglected that responsibility.

Background

In July 2021, an employee was trapped in a walk-in commercial freezer for over two hours. She was obviously distressed and was later treated for suspected hypothermia.  

Judgment 

The employer was recently fined £800k at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, with a further £24k in costs. In her sentencing remarks, the District Judge commented that the starting point would have been £1.6m but for their early plea.

Comment 

If your business has a walk-in freezer or other temperature-controlled environment sections, you must ensure your employees, contractors, and visitors are safe. 

Risk assessment 

Carry out a risk assessment to identify all hazards and risks along with the likelihood and consequences arising from the risk. This might include consideration of locking in the freezer, hypothermia, fever, cough, cold, etc. The severity of the risk and the likelihood of it arising are essential measures to determine the potential consequences. 

Identifying hazards

Once the hazards are identified, it’s essential to understand the control measures that are in place for the hazard. 

Planning actions

The next step in risk assessment is planning actions to work towards reducing the likelihood of an incident occurring or the severity of the risk. 

Safe system of work guide

You can also prepare a safe system of work guide for your employees to remind them of the safety processes in that working environment and carry out inspections to ensure that control measures are in place and training is appropriately followed.

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