Is this a sackable offence?

(204 Posts)
JCFJW Thu 21-Oct-21 00:20:13

Not me, asking on behalf of a teenage relative who is in a state after being told she may get suspended/sacked and she’s worried about it affecting her plans of working in hospitality abroad.

Potwash in a busy family restaurant. The training on chemical handling is a 5 minute online course. She has been there 5 months. Today she went to get detergent from the chemical cupboard. Key is kept in potwash area, chemical cupboard is downstairs next to the toilets so not locked in a staff only area. She forgot to lock the door after being in there and returned the key to its usual spot. It wasn’t noticed the whole night. Supervisor noticed it during closing and was fuming, and is going to arrange a disciplinary meeting. She told my relative “You could have killed a child if they had gone in and drank the chemicals.” The chemicals all have tight seals on.

This supervisor has bullied my relative and other potwash staff before before, making up problems. My relative was in the wrong but because of the supervisor’s previous behaviour I’m not sure how rational her reaction was and whether relative should expect punishment. Thoughts?

OP’s posts: |
FortunesFave Thu 21-Oct-21 00:23:48

It sounds like the manager doesn't like your relative and was looking for a reason to let them go. Since the chemicals aren't stored in a public area, her comments about killing a child seem ott.

This would warrant a warning and not sacking in my opinion.

But...how long has relative worked there? I advise them to leave and find another job and leave this off their CV.

Comefromaway Thu 21-Oct-21 00:25:16

How old is she? Has a young persons risk assessment been done? Age and experience should be taken into account with regards to what responsibilities a young worker is given.

And children should be nowhere near such an area anyway.

ImFree2doasiwant Thu 21-Oct-21 00:25:34

Next to the customer toilets?

JCFJW Thu 21-Oct-21 00:27:54

They are in a public area, next to the customer toilets. That’s why my niece is in a state about it and why the supervisor kicked off.

She is staying with me tonight (she does often as we are close) and she came in absolutely hysterical. She said she admitted it was her who had left the cupboard open straight away when the manager noticed and apologised.

This supervisor had belittled and bullied her before though, I could go on for days. She’s gutted as is applying to work in restaurants in Spain for a bit and is terrified as if she gets a disciplinary it will have to be declared and she’s looking forward to it so much.

She’s also hating herself over the thought that she could have been responsible for killing somebody.

OP’s posts: |
FortunesFave Thu 21-Oct-21 00:28:10

Comefromaway

How old is she? Has a young persons risk assessment been done? Age and experience should be taken into account with regards to what responsibilities a young worker is given.

And children should be nowhere near such an area anyway.

Yes, agree with this. I manage a biggish arts centre and our weekend staff are between 16 and 18 and I would never task them with certain jobs.

The chemicals should be in a staff only area too....are they?

JCFJW Thu 21-Oct-21 00:28:57

She is just turned 18, probably should have stated that as it’s different to being 16.

She’s breaking her heart and I feel really shit for her.

OP’s posts: |

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1vandal2 Thu 21-Oct-21 00:32:46

The question what is the worst thing that could happen is in all health and safety training and the answer is someone could die.
That is why it is serious.

SoniaFouler Thu 21-Oct-21 00:32:47

I haven’t worked abroad but would she need a reference to do pot washing in a restaurant for a few months in Spain? (Not trying to make a point, genuinely don’t know?)

Also, why on Earth are the chemicals stored next to the customer toilets? Sounds like a health hazard to me, cupboard locked or not.

NavigatingAdolescence Thu 21-Oct-21 00:33:52

With 5 months service she has very few rights and can be sacked for no reason at all. She may be best seeing what happens and resigning if she thinks she is going to be fired.

(HR professional)

JCFJW Thu 21-Oct-21 00:33:54

There is a staff office and staff changing rooms, they are in a code-locked area and the doors to the office and changing room also then have their own locks. So double locked really.

The chemical cupboard is in between the doors to the male and female customer bathrooms. The keys are kept by the potwash area in an unlocked door and niece claims this door is on the restaurant floor.

OP’s posts: |
FortunesFave Thu 21-Oct-21 00:33:57

SoniaFouler

I haven’t worked abroad but would she need a reference to do pot washing in a restaurant for a few months in Spain? (Not trying to make a point, genuinely don’t know?)

Also, why on Earth are the chemicals stored next to the customer toilets? Sounds like a health hazard to me, cupboard locked or not.

Yes...why doesn't she just leave and get something else? Pot washing/waitress jobs aren't hard to come by.

Comefromaway Thu 21-Oct-21 00:36:03

5 mins online training really isn’t adequate.

JCFJW Thu 21-Oct-21 00:38:42

If a child or vulnerable adult had drank the chemicals and died, I don’t think the restaurant would have been entirely devoid of responsibility personally. Why would you keep the chemical cupboard between the customer toilets and keep the key by the restaurant floor free for anybody to take?

Niece knows it’s really serious and that her actions could have left a child or vulnerable adult hospitalised or dead and she’s in a state about it. The agency she’s going to Spain with have said she HAS to have 2 references. She already left an apprenticeship due to harassment from a male colleague so I really am feeling like shit for her.

She did mess up but it’s something I easily could see myself doing and I really hope it can’t mess up her plans.

OP’s posts: |
Felix125 Thu 21-Oct-21 00:39:59

Should go down as a 'near miss' if anything.
Verbal warning at most

If it is a chemical store, then it should be covered by a COSHH risk assessment - which I suspect the manager should be responsible for.

Boopeedoop Thu 21-Oct-21 00:40:29

Do the.chemicals have safety lids? Are they stored within coshh guidelines?

Tell her to brush up on coshh before her meeting, but start looking for a new job.

gardeninggirl68 Thu 21-Oct-21 00:42:01

Worst case scenario would be gross misconduct which is an instant dismissal at our place

JCFJW Thu 21-Oct-21 00:42:56

@Felix125 The supervisor read out a COSHH line to her about the consequences of a child or vulnerable adult being able to get to then chemicals, so she appears to be well aware.

I’ve found this online:

“Locking up cleaning chemicals is sensible if vulnerable people such as children or learning-impaired persons are able to gain access to the chemicals. But if that isn’t the case, cleaning chemicals should be fine to be left in an unlocked cabinet, so long as they are stored properly i.e upright with the lid/seal properly attached.“

They are in a public area but because niece should have locked the door and didn’t, she made the chemicals accessible when they shouldn’t have been.

OP’s posts: |
immersivereader Thu 21-Oct-21 00:43:56

Can't you be the reference for her? Just lie about it?

The boss sounds totally unhinged and in a power trip

WorraLiberty Thu 21-Oct-21 00:45:42

The chemicals should be in a staff only area too....are they?

This isn't true.

They just need to be in a locked cupboard, it doesn't matter where that cupboard is as long as it's locked. At my work, the cleaners cupboard is actually inside the gents toilets.

OP, not to make light of the job itself, but it won't stop her getting another pot wash job anywhere and especially not abroad.

The bullying is a separate matter and should be treated separately.

ImUninsultable Thu 21-Oct-21 00:46:47

For starters, if she goes in there minimising like you are here then she is sacked.

Doesnt matter if the cleaning products all have lids. Doesnt matter if you have decided the key is easily accessible. No toddler is going to go and get the key, then go and unlock the door and then drink the chemicals. They might have got their hands on something because the door was unlocked, but they wouldnt have if they had to gi and get the key first.

She cannot do in there making any excuses or "but this" like you are right now.

She needs to accept responsibility, accept what the consequences could have been, say honestly that the shock from this has been enough to prevent her inexperience ever letting her do something like this again. She could even suggest they sign the key in and out, with a tick box to confirm they have locked the door on the outside of the chemical cupboard. So they need to tick before walking away. Or something.

Felix125 Thu 21-Oct-21 00:47:38

But you have to be sensible about this - she just forgot to lock the door.
Manager should now be more bothered about putting things in place for it not to happen again. Such as move the store, key-code lock etc etc

Treat it as a near miss, everyone learns something and all move on together.

WorraLiberty Thu 21-Oct-21 00:47:48

JCFJW

*@Felix125* The supervisor read out a COSHH line to her about the consequences of a child or vulnerable adult being able to get to then chemicals, so she appears to be well aware.

I’ve found this online:

“Locking up cleaning chemicals is sensible if vulnerable people such as children or learning-impaired persons are able to gain access to the chemicals. But if that isn’t the case, cleaning chemicals should be fine to be left in an unlocked cabinet, so long as they are stored properly i.e upright with the lid/seal properly attached.“

They are in a public area but because niece should have locked the door and didn’t, she made the chemicals accessible when they shouldn’t have been.

It doesn't matter that you've found that online.

What DOES matter is the company policy. If the policy states they should be locked away, then they need to be locked away.

WorraLiberty Thu 21-Oct-21 00:48:59

And don't forget it's not just about 'drinking' chemicals.

It's about people (children and adults) getting them on their skin.

Felix125 Thu 21-Oct-21 00:50:54

But COSHH trumps any company policy - and he should have carried out a risk assessment and justify his storage methods, access and security in a busy restaurant.

If he hasn't dome that properly, he can't just blame the incident on an 'forgetful' staff member.

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