Forklift driver reinstated after dismissal for accident

Employee failed to follow reporting procedure but dismissal was too harsh for first-time offender: Board
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 09/07/2011

The firing of an Ontario warehouse employee for failing to report a warehouse accident was too harsh of a punishment, the Ontario Arbitration Board has ruled.

Roberto Cavan was hired in 2001 by Sysco Food Services, a food product distributor in Toronto, to be an operator of mobile equipment such as forklifts and pallet trucks in its Mississauga, Ont., warehouse. He was licensed to operate such machinery and regularly took recertification training during his time with Sysco. As part of the recertification, Cavan acknowledged he had received information about the equipment and its safe operation, including safety legislation and safe work methods. Sysco’s policy and Ontario health and safety legislation stipulated that industrial steel storage racks, such as those Sysco used to store pallets of product, must be maintained in good condition and had to be emptied if damaged. Employees were prohibited from operating any equipment that could endanger others and required to report any defects or unsafe conditions in equipment.

Cavan didn’t have any discipline on his work record, though in early 2011 his manager spoke to him twice about the unsafe operation of a forklift. However, this was not officially documented and was not put in his file.