Scaffolder validly dismissed for failing to report incident and medical symptoms

Scaffolder validly dismissed for failing to report incident and medical symptoms.png

Scaffolder validly dismissed for failing to report incident and medical symptoms

Scaffolder validly dismissed for failing to report incident and medical symptoms

The FWC has upheld the dismissal of a scaffolder who failed to report sustaining an injury at work, in breach of Company requirements and prevailing site rules, as well as failing to report continuing symptoms. It was determined that there was no satisfactory explanation for his inactions despite his awareness of the requirements for reporting safety incidents and injuries.

Prior to his dismissal on 1 May 2020, the scaffolder had been employed by Altrad Services Pty Ltd (Altrad), formerly Cape Australia Onshore Pty Ltd, for fourteen months. Altrad performs scaffolding work for shutdown and maintenance at seven BHP mine sites across Western Australia.   He was one of a labour pool of approximately 365 Altrad workers who are engaged on an `as and when required’ basis across the sites.

Safety is a high priority on all BHP sites as well as the mining industry overall. On the Mount Whaleback site where the worker was engaged, mandatory daily pre-starts and closeout meetings were held for all employees to discuss operational activities, but also to report any safety incidents that occur during the shift as well as discuss any physical limitations workers may be suffering from.

During shift on 21 March 2020, between 9 am and 9:30 am, the scaffolder struck his head on a scaffold tube. He claims that he was wearing a hard hat and did not feel any resulting pain or discomfort, nor did he feel concussed. He completed his shift and returned to camp.

Critically, he acknowledged that he did not report the incident to anyone at the time.

Over the next several days, he felt some `pins and needles’ in his hands and wrist but continued to work. He mentioned this at a closeout meeting around 6 pm on 23 March 2020 but again did not raise the initial incident. Several days later, with no improvement and complaints of stiffness in his neck, he was examined by a physiotherapist, where he revealed striking his head on the scaffold tube.

Altrad were concerned with the scaffolder’s behaviour, particularly regarding his failure to report the initial incident and understating or not revealing the extent of his ongoing symptoms. An investigation was held, and following a show cause process, he was terminated. There was no suggestion that the employee was unaware of the reporting requirements, which were discussed at company inductions and during sessions on the company’s safety rules.

In assessing the evidence, Deputy President Binet determined the company’s decision to terminate was valid in the circumstances.  As she commented,

Mr Linton had a statutory obligation pursuant to occupational health and safety legislation to ensure his own and others health and safety. This includes an obligation to report safety hazards and injuries. I am satisfied that Mr Linton had both a contractual and statutory obligation to report safety hazards, incidents and injuries.”

Consequently, the application for unfair dismissal was dismissed.

Robert Linton v Altrad Services Pty Ltd [2021] FWC 794 (15 February 2021)

For queries about safety investigations or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 0417 622 178,     1300 WAL LAW 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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