THE Fair Work Commission has ruled in favour of a resource employer following the dismissal of a worker found to have driven a haul truck for 96 seconds after an alarm warned of an oil leak, causing $500,000 worth of damage to the vehicle.

A former Thiess truck driver working at the Mt Owen mine in New South Wales filed an unfair dismissal application after her position was terminated on grounds that she had acted negligently leading to a serious safety breach.

While driving a CAT 793F haul truck in October 2013, a Stage 3 alarm sounded, signifying an oil leak in the engine. However, despite safety procedures commanding the immediate cease of vehicle operation, the driver proceeded to move the vehicle to the bottom of a ramp in a 96-second manoeuvre.

During investigations conducted by the employer, it was found that the driver ‘failed to adhere to safe operating procedures, for which a category 3 warning …requires an immediate safe shutdown of the machine, [that] injury to the operator can occur, and that severe damage to the machine can occur’.

Before Commissioner John Stanton, a CFMEU representative appearing on behalf of the driver argued she had been trained by other employees to only stop if on a flat, stable surface.

However, Cmn Stanton rejected the evidence, stating:

“The respondent is obliged to take reasonable care to provide all employees with a safe place of work and safe systems of work at all times. In that regard, it is clear to the Commission that the applicant’s response to the incident … was inconsistent with her training generally with the respondent.”

“I have found that the applicant’s conduct in not applying the respondent’s safe operating procedures for shutting down her vehicle as a result of a stage 3 alarm on 9 October 2013 for which she had been trained as alleged by the respondent occurred and the very nature of that conduct caused a serious and imminent risk to the health of other road users at the time as well as herself,” he added.

“The respondent had a valid reason to dismiss the applicant and was entitled to terminate her employment summarily.”

To read the full decision, click here.

Implications for Employers

The resource industry is renowned for upholding the most stringent workplace health and safety standards, making workforce training a top priority. AMMA members are encouraged to invest in comprehensive safety training frequently so as to comply with national standards of occupational health and safety.

As an additional precaution, AMMA members should clearly state employee expectations for OHS awareness and management within their relevant company policies in an effort to minimise potential disputes. Training for supervisors and managers in handling workplace confrontation will also reduce issues associated with disciplinary actions.

AMMA Training & Development specialise in management training for resource industry employees. For the newest training calendar, click here, or contact AMMA Training & Development on 1800 891 662.

AMMA’s workplace relations consultants can also provide information and advice on issues regarding employee dismissal. Contact your local AMMA office to speak to a workplace relations expert for more information.