A recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision* to reinstate a worker who deliberately drove an unregistered airport tow tug on public roads to get his lunch is disappointing for everyone who is serious about workplace safety and compliance with road laws.
* Gill v Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd (2016) FWC 1472 (11 March 2016)
The reason for the unsafe and illegal act was lamely stated by the commissioner as “not a deliberate disregard for safety, but rather his focus was on getting lunch as he was hungry”. This has to be the weakest excuse for breaking a clear and long established rule I have ever heard in my long safety career.
On busy days I often go without lunch, and have never in my life thought it was OK to take an unregistered and unsuitable vehicle on public roads for any reason.
I understand that the FWC has to also ensure that due process is followed in all serious disciplinary action, especially dismissal, but this decision in my opinion does not bath the FWC in glory, and indeed clearly displays that workplace safety and compliance with important safety rules and road laws is secondary to industrial considerations.
It makes you wonder what the coroner would have said about the same actions if a fatal accident had occurred – “gross negligence” comes to mind.
If you have worked hard for years to get safety rules understood and accepted in your organisation, and are gutted by this decision then send in your ideas on how we can best convey the community’s disappointment to the appropriate politicians and courts.