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Safety Infraction Justifies Termination
January 21, 2008

An Alberta arbitrator recently upheld the dismissal of an employee with seven years’ service and a clean disciplinary record after the employee violated the employer’s lock-out/tag-out policy.

The grievor worked as a lead mechanic in a food processing plant. He was dismissed after he failed to follow safety procedures requiring the lock-out/tag-out of a machine prior to repairing it, injuring his finger in the process.

The employer had decided two years earlier to make a concerted effort to deal with safety issues in the plant by establishing a new “zero tolerance” approach to infractions. The employer drafted a new policy manual and lock-out policy, conducted safety audits, created safety committees and informed employees that safety breaches would incur serious discipline, up to and including dismissal. Six months before the grievor’s incident, the employer also provided in-house training on the importance of the lock-out/tag-out policy.

Arbitrator John Moreau concluded that the grievor’s dismissal was justified. The grievor was the chair of the Central Safety Committee and he knew the safety procedures as well as the disciplinary consequences for not following them. He made a deliberate and conscious decision to ignore the lock-out/tag-out policy, which he knew to be of overriding importance to the employer. In addition, he was not forthright when confronted about his conduct and he continued to be dishonest at the hearing. As a result, the Arbitrator concluded that the grievor’s conduct had irreparably harmed the employment relationship and he dismissed the grievance.

(Click here for link to decision)