Cafe owner fined £4k for safety breach

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Latest crime and court news from the Suffolk Free Press,, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

A restaurant owner has been ordered to pay more than £6,000 after a member of his staff was splashed in the face with chemicals.

Initially, the accident – which happened at Huffers Cafe, Sudbury, in September 2012 – was not reported to authorities and the employee, Chelsea Stafford, was left, half blinded, on the street outside. She had £20 to get a taxi and had to call her mother for assistance.

The victim, who suffered no permanent damage to her sight, later informed Babergh District Council and an investigation was carried out by the council’s environmental health officers.

A variety of serious health and safety breaches were uncovered during the investigation, relating to unsafe systems of work, a lack of procedures, poor first aid provision and inadequate training at the cafe in King Street.

Owner Halit Ozer and his company, Liteball Ltd, pleaded guilty to nine separate offences relating to the accident at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

The 51-year-old had originally pleaded not guilty to the charges but changed his plea on the day of the trial.

The offences included breaches of duty in the handling and training of products, failing to notify the enforcing authority of an accident and preparing a written statement.

Other charges involved Ozer failing in his duty to a young person, failing to provide adequate first aid equipment and a first aider, and two breaches of the control of substances hazardous to health regulations.

The court heard that Miss Stafford suffered the injury after using washing liquid containing sodium hydroxide.

Ozer was fined £4,365, plus a victim surcharge of £76, and ordered to contribute £2,100 to the council’s legal costs. The holding company for the business, Liteball Ltd, was fined £120.

The cafe has been under new ownership since November.

John Hinton, lead member for environment at the district council, commended the environmental health service for pursuing this case.

Speaking after the hearing, he said: “Health and safety regulation is often ridiculed as unnecessary red tape but this case shows that it is there with the intention of protecting employees.

“Babergh District Council will always take the protection of employees and the public seriously,” he added.