Sprinkler system damaged when struck by pallet truck

A general operative, who transported materials and finished products between sections of a manufacturing plant, was given a verbal warning when the pallet truck he was operating accidently struck the sprinkler system, causing damage.

An investigation followed. The operative spoke to his team leader and the health and safety officer, giving his “his side of the story”. The matter was reported to the shift manager, who issued a verbal warning, citing “carelessness in damaging company property”. The warning was to remain in force for four months.

The worker appealed the sanction under the company’s grievance procedure. The appeal cited lack of visible or adequate warning signs in the area. He also suggested the warning would put employees off reporting similar accidents in future. When the warning as upheld, he appealed to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), seeking to have the warning expunged from his record.

The employer, in its submission, said the worker was employed as a materials mover for over ten years and was fully trained on the use of the motorised equipment. This was not, the employer said, the first time the employee was spoken to about incidents of that nature. The employer said the health and safety of all employees is of paramount importance and the worker’s carelessness could have jeopardised his safety and that of his colleagues.

Delivering his recommendation, the adjudication officer held that not withstanding the worker’s claim that there should have been better signage and communication in the area where the incident occurred, it was clear that any employee operating in an area he was unfamiliar with (the employee had claimed he was unfamiliar with the area), should be overly cautious.

The AO noted that at the time of the hearing the warning had “well lapsed” and so was a “moot” point. However, he concluded the employee should accept the warning, even though it cannot now be used against hm. He also recommended that the employer review the signage in the area where the accident happened. (A Material Mover v A Manufacturer: ADJ-00019390, March 2020).

Source: Health and Safety Review