A drinks supply machine at a McDonald’s restaurant where two employees were fatally electrocuted last week had experienced an electrical fault but the issue was not escalated, according to the firm’s franchise manager in Peru.
All of Peru’s 29 McDonald’s restaurants have been closed while the fast-food chain’s local operator, Arcos Dorados, completes inspections following the deaths of Alexandra Porras, 18, and Carlos Campo, 19.
The victims were a couple who had been working for the chain for several months, according to their families.
They were electrocuted on Sunday last week while cleaning the kitchen of a McDonald’s restaurant in Pueblo Libre, a suburb of the capital Lima, police said.
The incident has already sparked several protests against McDonald’s and claims on social media, by people who said they had worked for the chain, of unsafe working conditions, low wages and unpaid work.
On Saturday, demonstrators in Lima carried posters bearing the victims’ photos and slogans reading “Justice for Alexa and Gabriel”.
Jos Andrade, general manager of Arcos Dorados Peru, told Peruvian television station Canal N: “The information, unfortunately, that the machine was not working and giving people shocks was only known within the local managers and was not escalated so that immediate action could be taken.
“What we have been able to determine through internal investigations is that at least 24 hours before this happened, it was known that the machine was presenting problems. What they ought to have done is to stop using the machine, even disconnect it.
“This has hit us all very hard and we are working hard to review all our processes, all our protocols, to ensure such a thing does not happen again.”
A lawyer acting for the victims’ relatives, Elizabeth Carmona, said she had asked the prosecution for McDonalds and Arcos Dorados representatives in Peru to be detained.
“The evidence of the criminal experts has determined that a power leak caused the deaths,” she said.
Meanwhile, Peru’s President Martin Vizcarra has said he will seek to strengthen labour laws to take more “concrete action” against companies involved in workplace accidents.
He said: “We can’t allow for these kind of accidents to happen and for there to be no comeback other than a fine.
“If the law is insufficient for these cases, we have to correct it.”
A spokesman for Arcos Dorados did not immediately respond to the claims by Mr Andrade.
But in a statement earlier, the company said it was “deeply saddened” by the employees’ deaths and was fully cooperating with local authorities.
It added that it paid “competitive” salaries, took seriously concerns raised about working conditions and that workers’ shifts never exceed eight hours and included an additional break time of one hour.
A McDonald’s spokesperson declined to comment on the accusations but said the safety of crew members at any McDonald’s was a “global priority”.