Health and safety prosecution for Michael Lavery

April 3, 2014

Michael Lavery from Exchange Chambers has prosecuted a four star hotel for a series of health and safety breaches after a beautician was turned into a human torch as she manicured an elderly woman’s nails.

Julia McKeown spent three weeks in hospital undergoing skin grafts and still suffers post traumatic stress from the horrific incident at the Dalmeny Hotel on the Promenade at Lytham St Annes, Lancashire where she was working.

District Judge Joanne Hirst sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court heard how the beautician suffered burns to her hands, arms, chest and stomach – some of them full thickness burns.

Before the court was the company which runs the hotel which admitted three breaches of the Health and Safety Act by failing to provide a safe working environment, exposing Julia McKeown and other staff to risks and failing to make COSHH risk assessments.

Fining the Dalmeny Hotel Ltd £16,000 and ordering the company to pay £9075 court costs the judge said:

“The woman suffered significant and horrific burns to her body. She has suffered a loss of self esteem as a result and her marriage has been affected as has her social life.

“The hotel failed to heed earlier warnings about health and safety. There had been previous problems with the use of acetone and a systematic failure in safety exposing a risk to staff.

“When it comes to compensation what she will get from her civil action will far exceed anything I can award at this court.”

The case against the family run hotel was brought by Fylde Council after the incident was reported to them.

Michael Lavery, prosecuting, said the fire broke out in the beautician’s area of the hotel leisure complex and swimming pool.

Julia McKeown was taking nail polish from the fingers of a regular client- 96 year old Mary Heyworth.

He said:

“Mrs Mc Keown, the salon manager, was using a pad soaked in acetone from a two and a half litre bottle.

”The bottle spilled and splashed on the beautician’s arms and body and the table.  She and her clothing ignited from the naked flame of a tealight type of candle which was lit and had been placed in an open topped lantern.

“Staff went to her aid, though Mrs Mckeown was badly burned and had to undergo extensive skin grafts some of them full skin thickness and she was burned to 15 to 17% of her body.

“The local council investigated and found  a the hotel company had  failed in its duty to protect its employees. There was no training and no supervision when it came to using what is known to be a significantly hazardous product.”

“The investigation showed there had been previous spillages of acetone and the company had been previously warned about health and safety issues.

“Fortunately the 96 year old customer was unharmed.”

The judge was told that Mrs Mc Keown had been employed at the Dalmeny since 2006. Since the incident she has returned to work there but has taken out a compensation claim against the Dalmeny.