A COMMERCIAL kitchen cleaner sued the Phyllis Court Members Club in Henley after he claimed an industrial fan was switched on while he was cleaning it. 

Christopher Harris had said he climbed through a hatch into a ventilation shaft on the roof of the prestigious club when a chef switched on the fan.

Mr Harris, a hygiene technician from E & D Ventilation, had arrived at the building in Marlow Road on January 8, 2020, a court heard.

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He claims that staff at the club were warned that he and two other technicians would be cleaning the kitchen and the fans. 

A sign reading 'do not use fan' had been put in place before he climbed up to the roof, he told Reading County Court.

But kitchen staff at Phyllis Court Members Club had turned on the fan after they thought the cleaning was complete.

Mr Harris was claiming up to £10,000 for psychiatric harm which he says he suffered after the fan started spinning while he was cleaning it. 

The court heard that a medical report from a doctor in January 2022 had said he needed 12 to 16 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy following the alleged incident.

Mr Harris, of Maidenhead, told a judge there had been a meeting between his employer and Phyllis Court, where it was agreed staff at the club would use a different kitchen while the cleaners were at work.

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“They knew we were coming and they had been asked to use the small kitchen”, Mr Harris said.

But barrister Juliet Stevens, on behalf of Phyllis Court, said the kitchen cleaners from E & D had been responsible for ensuring their safety while at work. 

“The claimant was responsible for isolating the fan prior to commencing the cleaning and failed to do so”, she told the court.

Ms Stevens showed a video to the court which she said showed that the sign which had been put up by the cleaners had been put over a gas switch, not the fan switch.

A supervisor from E & D told the court he had hung the sign on the gas cock, but had later been informed he had been putting it on the wrong place. 

The barrister also told the court there was a second isolator switch for the fan on the roof, which the technicians could have used before commencing their work.

She told Mr Harris: “The defendant’s position is that not only was it your job - E & D Ventilation - to correctly ensure the fan was isolated down in the kitchen, but also there was an expectation that E & D would isolate the fan at roof level as a belt and braces approach."

Ms Stevens also alleged that Mr Harris could not have fitted through the 17 to 18 inch hatch which he claimed to have climbed through to get to the fan.

“You did not have your whole body in the hatch at the time that the fan was turned on”, Ms Stevens put to him.

Mr Harris maintained he did.

Mr Harris claimed he had reported the incident at work straightaway, but Ms Stevens pointed out the court had no evidence in the form of an accident report, text messages or emails that the claimant had mentioned the incident to his employer.

“There is nothing contemporaneous, nothing in the couple of weeks time after the accident, nothing to suggest that you reported you were in the duct”, she said.

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Ms Stevens also questioned why Mr Harris had never attended any of the recommended CBT sessions. 

He claimed his wife had tried to call to make an appointment but that no sessions had ever been scheduled and he conceded he had not tried to follow up.

But after a lunch adjournment on Thursday (March 28), Mr Harris discontinued his claim against Phyllis Court, who deny any liability.