A beachside café and one of its directors has been charged by SafeWork SA over an incident where a young casual worker was seriously burned in August 2018.

H&T Cook Enterprises Pty Ltd and Tiarne Cook pleaded guilty to charges for breaches of sections 19 and 32 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) for failing to ensure the health and safety of workers whilst at work.

In August 2018, a worker at Royal Copenhagen Café (Brighton) was injured when pouring methylated spirits into an ethanol burner causing a flashback flame and setting the workers’ face and hair on fire.

The injured worker was hospitalised with burns to their face, neck and hands.

SafeWork SA’s investigation found that the H&T Cook Enterprises Pty Ltd failed to:

  • ensure that workers refuelled the ethanol burner in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions
  • provide all workers who refuelled the ethanol burner with written instructions directing the workers to only refuel the ethanol burner in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions
  • adequately train all workers to do so in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions
  • supervise all workers to ensure that they only refuelled the ethanol burner in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

Tiarne Cook, a Director of H&T Cook Enterprises Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty to a failure to exercise due diligence to ensure that the company complied with its statutory duty.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Martyn Campbell said, “It is the responsibility of those running a business to ensure workers receive adequate training to do their job safely and that there are adequate systems in place to protect workers.”

“A 21 year old worker was seriously injured and left a young person with life-long effects from this incident.

This is an example of an unprepared small business owner not taking their work health and safety responsibilities seriously and a worker paying the price”, said Mr Campbell.

“Owning a business comes with accountability and responsibility to provide safe systems of work, training and guidance. This is even more relevant where the workforce is young, casual and inexperienced. I was personally distressed seeing the images from CCTV footage which show how quickly something like this could happen.

Many small businesses employ young, casual and inexperienced workers, many of which are working for the first time. It is critical that business owners take extra precautions to ensure these groups of workers are safe, as many have never experienced the work environment before. Business owners have a duty to provide extra care to this vulnerable group.”

The accommodation and food services industry has the youngest age demographic of all industries with 44 per cent of workers aged under 25 years old.

Casual work in hospitality is many people’s first job. These young workers are at risk as they often have no, to limited work experience and knowledge to know when they are placed in unsafe and dangerous situations.

There is a higher onus on business owners to ensure all young workers are provided with adequate training and supervision.

It is reasonable for young workers, and their families to expect them to return safely home each night after work”, he said.

Submissions were considered in the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) on Monday, 17 August 2020. Sentencing will be given at a later date.