An employee who drove a loaded forklift in the forward direction
with his view obstructed was properly issued a five-day suspension,
an Ontario arbitrator has decided.
The employee was bringing a load of ten 30" wooden reels
into the plant. Instead of turning around and driving the forklift
backwards, so his view would not be obstructed by the load, he
drove forward. A coworker pulled into the aisle with a
hand-operated lift truck known as a "walkie". The
employee braked suddenly to miss the coworker, causing the forklift
load to shift and strike the coworker. She was injured in the back,
shoulder and abdomen and was off work through WSIB for seven
The employee agreed that it was standard operating procedure to
travel in reverse when carrying a vision-obstructing load. Also the
plant rules prohibited operation of a forklift with an obstructed
view. Further, the employer had recently issued a memorandum
telling employees to travel in reverse or have a spotter if the
load blocked their view.
Arbitrator Kristin Eliot decided that the employee had breached
plant safety rules and legislated safety standards. This was a very
serious incident and the harm to the coworker could have been much
worse. The employee should have turned around, when he was able,
and operated the forklift in reverse.
The arbitrator therefore upheld the five-day suspension.
This case is another in a line of cases demonstrating that
courts and labour arbitrators take safety violations very seriously
and are prepared to uphold strong discipline against employees who
breach safety rules.
Belden (CDT) Canada Inc. and USWA, 2011 CarswellOnt
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