In a shocking turn of events, Pret a Manger, the beloved U.K.-based sandwich chain, finds itself in hot water after a chilling incident that occurred in July 2021. A female employee was trapped inside a walk-in freezer for over two hours, enduring sub-zero temperatures. This alarming incident has led to a hefty fine of approximately $1 million (£800,000) imposed by the Westminster City Council.
The Frigid Ordeal
The harrowing incident took place at a Pret a Manger location in Victoria Coach Station, where the walk-in freezer was typically set to run at a bone-chilling -18 degrees Celsius. The employee, unable to escape, resorted to using a cardboard box filled with chocolate croissants as a makeshift shield against the biting cold. She suffered from symptoms of hypothermia and required immediate medical attention.
Guilty Plea and Investigation
Pret a Manger’s troubles escalated when they entered a guilty plea following a thorough investigation by the Westminster City Council. The council revealed a shocking lapse in safety measures, stating that there had been no suitable risk assessment for employees working in temperature-controlled environments. The incident shed light on a systemic issue that needed immediate attention.
An Apologetic Response
A spokesperson for Pret a Manger expressed deep remorse, saying, “We are incredibly sorry for our colleague’s experience and understand how distressing this must have been.” The company promptly conducted a comprehensive review of its safety protocols, collaborating with the freezer manufacturer to prevent such incidents in the future. They assured full cooperation with the council’s investigation.
The Westminster City Council uncovered an alarming trend through Pret’s reporting system. Defective or frozen push buttons on freezers had triggered numerous callouts in the 19 months leading up to the July 2021 incident. This revelation added weight to the council’s case against the company.
Reduced Fine and Support for the Employee
Initially facing a staggering $2 million fine, Pret a Manger received some leniency from the council due to an early guilty plea and mitigation efforts. The fine was reduced by half, but the message was clear: safety must be a top priority.
Remarkably, the employee who endured the freezer ordeal has returned to her role at Pret a Manger, now in a team leader position. The company has gone above and beyond by providing her with access to counseling and other support services to aid her recovery.
Ownership and Global Presence
Pret a Manger has been majority-owned by JAB Holding since 2018. The chain boasts a substantial workforce in the U.K., with thousands of employees, and it extends its reach to the U.S., Germany, India, and several other countries. This incident serves as a stark reminder that safety measures must be rigorously enforced across all of its locations worldwide.
In conclusion, the chilling incident at Pret a Manger has not only resulted in a significant fine but has also prompted a critical reevaluation of safety standards within the company. As they strive to prevent such incidents from happening again, the message is clear: the well-being of their employees must always come first.
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