Pret A Manger received an £800,000 fine following an incident where an employee was left fearing for her life while trapped inside one of the company’s freezers.
In a shocking incident in July 2021, a Pret A Manger employee found herself trapped in a -18C walk-in freezer for two-and-a-half hours, resulting in hypothermia and significant distress. The ordeal took place at the brand’s Victoria coach station branch.
The employee, dressed in just a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, faced a chilling nightmare as she tried to keep warm by moving. Unfortunately, as the hours wore on, she struggled with her breathing and gradually lost sensation in her thighs and feet.
In a desperate move, she attempted to use a cardboard box filled with chocolate croissants to shield herself from the cold air of the freezer’s ventilator, but her numbing hands could not manage the task.
A subsequent investigation into the incident exposed several gaps in Pret A Manger’s safety measures. Notably, there was no proper risk assessment concerning employees working in temperature-controlled environments. Digging deeper, data from the brand’s internal reporting system revealed recurring issues over the previous 19 months.
Specifically, there were multiple occurrences involving faulty or frozen push buttons. Even more alarming was an incident in January 2020, in the same kitchen, where an employee was trapped due to a malfunctioning internal door release mechanism.
Following the inquiry, Pret A Manger acknowledged their oversight in Westminster Magistrates Court, admitting to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Westminster Council led the investigation.
Councillor Aicha Less emphasized the gravity of such negligence, stating, “Overlooking elementary safety measures can result in severe repercussions.” She expressed hope that the considerable fine would serve as a potent deterrent against any such future incidents.
Westminster City Council‘s commitment to ensuring health and safety standards remains unwavering. They aim to continuously collaborate with businesses to uphold these standards and train staff for safer operations.
Expressing remorse over the unsettling event, a spokesperson for Pret A Manger commented, “We deeply regret our colleague’s traumatic experience.” In response to the incident, the chain has taken steps to revisit and enhance its systems, promising full cooperation with Westminster City Council’s ongoing probe.