News Expertise crucial for high-risk task

Bad pint and the importance of Beer Training

There has been press coverage recently in relation to the unfortunate accidental consumption of beer line cleaner by a Spanish journalist who had gone for a drink in the New Conservatory in Leeds.  The incident dates back to 2014 but the prosecution only happened recently.

The gentleman was served his pint by an inexperienced member of staff who had not been properly trained.  The practice at the premises was to turn the beer signs on the pumps around to indicate the lines were being cleaned.  Unfortunately, this particular member of staff was unaware of the practice and had therefore not done so. 

The gentleman in question had to have his oesophagus removed with a £20,000 fine being meted out to the offender.

It is unfortunate that the process of cleaning the lines which deliver beer to our glasses involves the use of such toxic and therefore dangerous chemicals and as a result it is imperative to have bulletproof preventative systems in place to protect customers from injury and also operators from potential consequences under both Food Safety and Health & Safety Legislation.

The following would be a good starting point:

  • Conduct a full risk assessment of the process of beer line cleaning.  Many operators dictate that the process should not take place at all whilst the premises are open and serving in order to virtually eliminate the risk.  The risk assessment must be conducted by a competent person and should be fully recorded in writing detailing the practices which may be employed in an effort to minimise the risk
  • Ensure that all staff who may become involved in the process are fully trained in the risks before they are ever involved in the process.  In the recent case a new staff member was involved and had not been appropriately trained.  Such training should ideally take place as part of the Health & Safety Induction Training even if it is only to advise a new member of staff that they will not be involved in the process until they are much more experienced.
  • Training records should be carefully maintained for production on request both to demonstrate due diligence and to protect those involved should an unfortunate accident happen.  This training should be refreshed on a regular basis as it should with all key areas especially when the risks are significant;
  • It may well be worth considering either having a couple of dedicated team members to conduct the process or indeed outsourcing it to specialists.

Following recent changes in legislation the fine levels have risen in respect of Health & Safety and Food Safety offences.  The vast majority of fines are now unlimited in the Magistrates Court as they were in any event in the Crown Court.  Incidents involving serious injury such as this may well find themselves in the Crown Court especially where large companies are involved and the court feels that it needs to “send a message to the directors”.

In addition to the financial consequences and of course a criminal record the reputational damage caused by adverse publicity in situations such as this cannot easily be quantified.