Sacking a worker over a safety near miss upheld

In a recent decision of the Fair Work Commission, the Commission upheld the summary dismissal of a worker who had placed his hand close to the rotating drum of a machine in direct contravention of the employer’s safety protocols.  This action was reported as a “near miss” to the employer by two other workers which led to an investigation following which the worker involved was summarily dismissed.  He had sustained workplace injury previously and was well aware of the dangers.  The Commission stated:

[73] The obligation to provide and maintain a safe and healthy workplace must be the paramount consideration in any workplace. It is also self-evident that the requisite safety protocols and requirements are made known and understood by employees from the outset through appropriate guidance, training, instruction and other mechanisms. It is also acknowledged that the appropriate response to some safety breaches can involve counselling, retraining, or the provision of a warning.

[74] However, it is also clear that simply providing a warning and, in effect, a second chance, cannot be the appropriate response in every case involving a safety breach, particularly if the importance of establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is to be emphasised and supported. In some cases the nature of the breach will warrant summary dismissal. I am satisfied that this is the case in the present matter, given the nature of the safety breach involved, and its potential consequences. I am also satisfied it has led to a situation in which Fenner Dunlop can no longer have confidence Mr Singh will act, at all times, in accordance with its safety requirements and protocols.

See the decision for further detail: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FWC/2015/5583.html