Unsafe operation of equipment is an easy way to get dismissed or charged with Occupational Health and Safety Act — or sometimes even criminal — offences. A labour arbitrator has upheld the dismissal of a mining employee for driving a trolley at excessive speeds in a mine, causing a derailment and significant damage, costing the company more than $100,000.
The trolley was used underground to transport ore cars loaded with “muck” ore or waste to “dumps.” The trolley weighed 20 tonnes. The arbitrator found that the speed of the trolley was under the employee’s control. The evidence was that the track was in good condition. The arbitrator found that the train was travelling “well in excess” of the maximum allowable speed of 12 kilometres per hour when the derailment occurred, and probably at least 19 kilometres per hour. The 12 kilometres per hour maximum was set by the Mines and Mining Plants regulation under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The employee was therefore guilty of operating the train at excessive speed, which constituted reckless conduct. The employee had short service. He had other safety-related discipline on his record. His reckless operation of the train could have caused serious personal injury or death. He refused to accept responsibility, offer an apology or display remorse.
The arbitrator noted that the “underground mine environment is a dangerous and extremely safety-sensitive one.” It was appropriate, in the circumstances, to discharge the employee.
For more information, see Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations v Sudbury Mine, Mill & Smelter Workers’ Union Unifor, Local 598
Adrian Miedema is a partner in the Toronto Employment Group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts. For more information, visit www.dentons.com or www.occupationalhealthandsafetylaw.com.