Enterprise Inns was fined £95,000 earlier this year after a woman working in the kitchen at one of its tenanted pubs was badly burned when using a gas range cooker. According to press reports, the kitchen manager at the Angel Inn in Caerphilly was badly burnt when she pressed the ignition switch and was hurt in a “flash over” from the oven.  The injured woman was employed by the tenant – not by Enterprise (which was the owner of the pub).  This case is a warning to Pubcos to make sure that health and safety policies are followed.  A prosecution for a health and safety offence can be costly and the adverse publicity that results can often have an even bigger impact on business.

Many have wondered how Enterprise could be liable in such a case.  It is well known that employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their staff at work.  Part of this duty involves the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work which are, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.  In the pub, restaurant and hotel trade the maintenance of safe ovens in the kitchen is obviously part of this duty.

In addition to placing a duty on employers, Health and Safety legislation also places a duty in respect of maintenance of plant (e.g. ovens) on anyone who “has control of the premises”.  A pub company will have control of a premises if “by virtue of any contract or tenancy“…it has “an obligation of any extent in relation to the safety of or the absence of risks to health arising from plant … in any such premises“.

Although the press reports do not give very much detail, the inference is that Enterprise’s tenancy contained such a provision and, therefore, Enterprise had a duty to ensure that the gas ovens were maintained and serviced regularly by a competent engineer.  It admitted that its health and safety policy had not been fully followed

This case serves as a very strong reminder to employers and pubcos to ensure that health and safety obligations are met and that gas appliances are regularly serviced and maintained.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.