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12th January 2016

The need for a COSHH assessment and staff training when working with chemicals…

£25,000 fine for Leeds bar that served customer glass of caustic soda

Nicholas Bird, The boss of ‘The New Conservetory’ bar in Albion Place, Leeds caused a customer life-threatening injuries after serving him a glass of caustic soda instead of beer.

Spaniard David Caminal had to have his oesophagus removed after drinking the substance.

Nicholas Bird who runs the bar and owns parent company TNC Cafe Bars and Music Limited, admitted health and safety breaches at Leeds Magistrates’ Court yesterday. He was fined £20,000 as an individual and the company was fined £5,000.

The Court was told that Mr Caminal, a 48 year old film director, was in Yorkshire on an assignment and was visiting the bar on his day off. He will bear the physical and mental scars of this incident for many years, if not for the rest of his life.

Mr Caminal was offered a sample of ale called Sunbeam, but the barman instead handed over a glass of sodium hydroxide- better known as caustic soda- which was dispensed from the bar tap after being used to clean the beer lines.

The usually clear liquid had the same appearance as ale after being discolored by the cleaning process. After drinking it Mr Caminal felt his throat burning and collapsed. He was then rushed to hospital and had to be put into an induced coma, before being flown home to Spain.

His condition later deteriorated and he had to have his oesophagus removed in surgery, so dangerous that the Spanish government had to authorise it. He still has trouble eating solid food.

Prosecutor Sam Green, said: “Mr Caminal sustained life-threatening and life-changing injuries. In short this incident happened because the defendant, which operated the bar and employed its staff, failed to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure customers, such as Mr Caminal, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, namely the risks posed by a beer line cleaning process.”

Peter Smith, mitigating, said the bar had no previous health and safety issues and the incident was not caused by a deliberate act. He said his client had been left “devastated” by the incident and it had a major impact on his parents who were financial backers.TNC and Nicholas Bird are not a danger to the public. This was very much an isolated incident.

District Judge David Kitson also handed down £17,859 in costs.

In a statement issued through his lawyers Fieldfisher, Mr Caminal said he was “different” as a result of the incident. He added: “On the odd occasion I do get out to meet friends socially, I’m always checking out where the toilets are because, at some point, I will have to run to them. On the positive side, I suppose I’m lucky to be alive at all.”

After the case, Coun Mark Dobson, of Leeds City Council, said the case proved health and safety was not just “red tape”, adding: “It’s my sincere hope that this case shows just how important it is that businesses remain vigilant.”

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