The worker in question had worked 37 years for a lead recycler. Lead recyclers have very strict safety rules to follow as employers, according to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, including requiring the use of respirators and to monitor all workers for lead exposure.
According to the mediator, the employee had been written up seven times over the last year of his employment, most for safety violations. At the time the employer had decided to let their long-time worker go, they had to write him up twice in two days. The first time, the worker had chosen to work in the plant without a hard hat, safety glasses and mask. The very next day, he was caught working in the plant without a respirator, and he wasn’t clean shaven for an effective mask seal. These two incidents came less than a month after the worker had been given a written warning and counselling for much the same type of health and safety violations, and just over four months after he had served a 25-day suspension for repeated violations over a six week period.
The arbitrator cited the fact that the worker had not “fully acknowledge(d) or accept(ed) responsibility for his misconduct on either April 30 or May 1, 2012. The company has reasonably concluded that its efforts to rehabilitate the grievor have been fruitless, and that it can no longer tolerate his presence in the workplace.”
In his decision, the arbitrator noted that the worker’s continuing safety violations, and the lack of a meaningful apology, are more meaningful than his many years of service. He noted that “workplace health and safety is a serious matter. … arbitrators (must) take the mutual responsibility of employers, unions, and employees to ensure workplace health and safety is very seriously . . . Lengthy service by itself has less mitigation currency in health and safety misconduct cases than it has in other kinds of cases.”
No matter how long you’ve worked at your job, safety is always an important concern.