An Alberta arbitrator ruled that a company had just cause to
immediately terminate the employment of a lead mechanic for a
Lockout/Tag Out Policy violation because of the exceptional lengths
the company had gone to in order to maintain a high level of safety
in the plant.
On the day of the incident, a lead mechanic, with seven years of
service with the company, was called to the shrink wrapper area and
reported that it was not working and that the trunnion wheel had
snapped. As the same problem had occurred previously, the mechanic
knew that the gear box had to be replaced. He locked out the
machine and replaced the gear box. The mechanic later received a
call that the shrink wrapper was still not functioning properly.
Rather than following the company's Lockout/Tag Out Policy, the
mechanic returned with a rag to clean the oil off the trunnion
wheel. He held the rag on the trunnion wheel intending to clean off
the oil while the wheel rotated. A jagged edge on the inside part
of the rotating wheel caught the rag and flipped the mechanic's
right hand. His thumb nail was removed on impact. The mechanic
immediately reported the incident, a workplace investigation
followed and the worker was terminated for cause.
The mechanic claimed that he was wrongfully dismissed. The
arbitrator concluded that the mechanic was well-versed on the plant
safety policy, as well as the expectations of the company and the
consequences for failing to follow the Policy at the time of the
incident. Moreover, given his experience and position as a mechanic
leader, and bearing in mind the emphasis of the company on the
importance of observing safety procedures, the arbitrator found it
difficult to understand why the mechanic did not follow the Policy
on the day of the incident. A deliberate and conscious decision to
ignore the Policy was made and can only be viewed as an act of
defiance which undermined the confidence and trust of the company.
The arbitrator ruled that the just cause termination was
A key point from this case is that if a company policy is relied
on for an employee's termination, the company must ensure that
employees are thoroughly aware of company policies and the
consequences that may result from a violation.
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Back in July 2012, we covered "PVYW v Comcare" (No 2),  FCA 395, which concerned an employee in the HR department of an Australian government agency who was injured on a work-related trip to a country town in New South Wales.
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