The Fair Work Commission has upheld the dismissal of a worker who left the scene of a vehicle collision which made six policy breaches in less than 12 months.
The Commission found that prior to the incident, the MMG Australia Ltd underground mine truck driver was disciplined five times within a year for breaching procedures, and a reasonable person subjected to this many disciplinary actions would be “hyper vigilant” when it came to safety rules.
“The conclusion is made then, that if he thought about the requirements of the policy at all, he just thought they were not especially relevant or applicable,” Commissioner Nick Wilson said.
In February this year, the Tasmanian worker drove his dump truck, with one passenger on board, into a cross cut (parking space) near a crib room and hit an integrated tool basket parked there, causing $15,000 in damage.
An investigation found the incident had a “high” potential consequence level because other workers could have been getting equipment out of the basket, and been fatally struck by the truck.
It found the worker breached mine policy in failing to: check whether there was other equipment in the cross cut before driving into it; preserve or remain at the accident scene; or immediately report the accident.
The investigation found that after the collision, the worker walked 300 metres to the crib room and started heating up his lunch before reporting the incident to his supervisor.
Worker Inattention the Real Cause
Commissioner Wilson found the incident was caused by worker inattention, specifically not looking into the cutting before he entered. To compound the error the worker left the scene to heat up his lunch leaving a dangerous situation that could have caused more damage or injury.
He found MMG had a valid reason to dismiss the worker, and noted he was disciplined five times in 2015 for not adhering to policies or procedures, illustrating his attitude to safety and company procedure.
“A person who had been the subject of this many events calling into question his adherence to policy and procedure would, by February 2016, be hyper-vigilant about following policies,” the Commissioner said.
“Yet that consideration does not feature either in what [the worker] did on the day, or in his explanations at a later time,” he said.
“I therefore do not consider that [the worker] has been unfairly dismissed.”
Ket Take Away from Finding
The key take aways from this finding are;
- Make sure you have policies and procedures in place and staff are inducted to them.
- Document all breaches of procedure even the minor ones.
- Investigate incidents properly when they occur.
You can dismiss someone for being unsafe, you just need to have your systems in place and procedures to make it happen. Remember when someone goes to Fair Work they will look at that specific incident but unless you have everything else in place the outcome may not be what you expect.