“Cardinal Rule” Safety Violation Warranted 6-Month Suspension, Last-Chance Order

A millwright who violated his employer’s “Cardinal Rules” by committing a lock-out violation, deserved a six-month suspension and with a last-chance stipulation, an arbitrator has held.  The company’s decision to dismiss the employee was overturned.

The employer had five Cardinal Rules of safety.  Cardinal Rule #3 read, “Isolation and lock out procedures must always be followed.”

The employee could not locate the switch to turn off electrical power to equipment that he was asked to fix.  He decided that instead of locating and isolating the power source, he would disconnect electrical wires and put tape on the exposed wiring.  Apparently the tape came off one of the wires and it touched another wire which caused sparks and an electrical short. No one was injured.

Three months earlier, the employee had received a one-day suspension for what the arbitrator called an “identical first offence”.

The arbitrator found that both safety violations occurred in low-risk situations. There was no injury, no damage to property and no evidence of lost production.  The employee’s decision was influenced by his desire to complete the task in the time alloted to him and not for selfish reasons.  At the same time, the arbitrator acknowledged that his decision must deter other employees from violating safety rules.  The arbitrator reinstated the employee with a six-month suspension, and imposed a condition that should the employee “commit any safety violation” in the one year following his reinstatement, the employer would have just cause to dismiss him.

Re Dufferin Concrete and Teamsters Local No. 230, 2013 CanLII 61486 (ON LA)

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Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian 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.

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