Serious look at some wacky cases involving discipline for safetyWritten by Cheryl A. Edwards 26 July 2012
With the caveat that these writers acknowledge safety is a serious matter, and some of these incidents resulted in injuries to workers involved, we start with a selection of real decided Canadian disciplinary cases that can only be characterized as unexpected, bizarre, even “wacky” behaviour.
A mechanic picks up an air gun nailer and checks it in the air. When it does not fire, he holds it to the abdomen of a co-worker. It discharges a steel nail into the co-worker’s stomach. The offending worker convinces his co-worker not to go to the hospital and not to report the incident to management. The consequence: the arbitrator recognized the employer’s legal obligation to provide a safe and secure workplace for employees, this was the worker’s second safety infraction, and a discharge of the mechanic was upheld at arbitration.
A 30-year employee in a plant with highly pressurized and flammable gases sets off firecrackers in this safety sensitive plant twice, as a joke. He is a member of the plant’s joint health and safety committee, and has taken numerous safety courses. The consequence: a discharge of this employee was upheld at arbitration, despite the mitigating factors of very long service with the employer and a clean record. These factors did not outweigh the seriousness of the offence.
A new worker decides to create several “dry ice bombs.” Pieces of dry ice are placed in 500ml plastic bottles with water, leading to a chemical reaction, which causes the bottle to explode. One of the “bombs” explodes near a co-worker who suffers temporary deafness and ringing in his ears. The consequence: The arbitrator found that this relatively new worker (his tenure was six months) intentionally threw these dry-ice bombs amongst his co-workers, thereby carelessly and negligently putting others at risk. However, discharge was not appropriate in the circumstances. A discharge was overturned and instead the worker served a one-year suspension.
A worker takes a bet and for the sum of $100 staples his genital area to a 4x4 wooden plank in the workplace lunchroom. Through the wonders of modern technology this is recorded. A co-worker posts this on the Internet. The consequence: The worker is discharged upon discovery by the employer. The Ontario Labour Relations Board upholds the discharge. The board states in discussing the movie, “[i]f the…employees want to emulate the principals of Jackass by self-abuse, they may be free to do so when they are not on the [workplace] premises and cannot be identified as being associated with the [employer].