Multiple Safety breaches warrant employee dismissal

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Multiple Safety breaches warrant employee dismissal

The FWC has upheld the dismissal of an employee for multiple breaches of workplace health and safety procedures committed over a relatively short period of employment. In doing so, they rejected the worker’s claim in part that the business was responsible for failing to train him in appropriate procedures adequately.

The employer, Correct Installs, operates a business in Murrarie, Queensland, installing racking and storage systems for their customers at their place of business.

The employee commenced as a casual Skilled Labourer on 6th March 2017 and was subsequently promoted to Second in Charge on 1st March 2018. He remained in that position until his dismissal on 5th September 2019. The reasons given for his dismissal was repeated misconduct and breaches of the company’s workplace health and safety procedures.

On 6th June 2019, a meeting was held with the employee to discuss a broad range of allegations against him, including:

(a) damaging beams at a worksite;

(b) damaging a car while pulling a ute out of the warehouse;

(c) damaging a shed while driving a ute;

(d) failing to fill out the logbook to record usage of the company truck;

(e) failing to conduct plant checks in accordance with company policy;

(f) failing to sign a workplace statement acknowledging safety protocols at the workplace;

(g) driving an electric scissor lift out of the warehouse while the cord was still plugged in, posing a serious OHS risk to other staff. The employee failed to notify anyone of this incident and left the damaged electrical cord where another employee could use it; and

(h) failing to properly hitch a trailer while driving a vehicle on a public road, posing a serious risk to the public.

Following the meeting, he received a verbal warning.

On the 25th June, he was issued with a formal letter alleging six further breaches of company policies, four of which were substantiated. These were an unauthorised absence, arriving late for a shift, lengthy use of a mobile phone during a shift, and offending an employee of a company. He was issued a written warning.

Subsequently, on the 7th August, he was issued with a formal letter alleging five further breaches of company policies, three of which were substantiated. These were arriving late for a shift, a safety breach (failing to maintain communications while operating a scissor lift) and being disrespectful towards the HR Manager (hanging up the phone during a payroll enquiry). He was issued with a final written warning.

The final straw was the business being made aware of a further significant safety breach dating back to the 9th July. On the 4th September, they wrote to the employee alleging that he had allowed an electrical extension lead to run across the ground in a high forklift traffic area. The breach was substantiated, and he was subsequently terminated.

In what can only be described as a strong endorsement for the actions taken by the employer, DP Asbury upheld the dismissal stating:

I am satisfied and find that there was a valid reason for the Applicant’s dismissal. The Applicant had been repeatedly warned – both verbally and in writing – about his attitude to workplace health and safety. The Respondent had appropriate workplace health and safety procedures which were articulated in the workplace. The Applicant failed to follow them on numerous occasions. The Applicant was trained sufficiently to carry out his duties as required. Some of the Applicant’s safety breaches were so fundamental that he should not have required training to prevent them. The conduct of the Applicant in running a power cord across a doorway through which forklifts could travel, is a case in point. If the Applicant needed training in order for him to understand that he should not drive a scissor lift out of a workshop while it was still plugged into a power source, then he received such training when he was shown how to walk around a truck and trailer before driving it, to ensure that it was safe to operate”.

It is reassuring to employers that the FWC has consistently displayed a low tolerance to employees who repeatedly breach safety procedures in the workplace.

Mr H vs Correct Installs Pty Ltd (2020) FWC 2729

For queries about dealing with safety breaches and investigations, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 952 259, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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