Suspension justified for dangerous doze

Cases

Suspension justified for dangerous doze

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The AIRC has supported the decision of an employer to suspend an employee who had lost concentration, due to fatigue, when operating heavy equipment.

The employee was suspended for 36 hours following meetings with management and union officials.

Background

Alcoa operated a Komatsu 575 Dozer (said in evidence to be the world's largest bulldozer) at its Willowdale minesite. 

The suspended employee was an operator of the vehicle. The vehicle was not operated from the cab in the vehicle but remotely from a separate vehicle colloquially known as the 'pope mobile'. The pope mobile was parked within sight of the bulldozer.

Findings 

Senior Deputy President Polities found that the employee:

  • Due to a medical appointment in Perth and the hot weather, had not prepared adequately for his shift.
  • Was fatigued and at the very least lost concentration when the first two incursions into the bush occurred. These incursions could not be described as minor nor do incursions of this magnitude occur regularly.
  • Fell asleep for a period in excess of a minute when the 90 metre incursion into the bush occurred.

The Commission noted that had the employee’s hand remained on the controls and the vehicle continued operating while he was asleep the incident could have been extremely serious with the dozer being in effect uncontrolled.

As to Alcoa's position on safety the Commission noted that the shift on which the employee worked had not received the training package in relation to the fatigue management policies being put in place by the company.

The Senior Deputy President also noted that there was a responsibility on an individual to recognise the symptoms of fatigue and to take appropriate action; and the employee in question did not take this action.

See: The Australian Workers' Union v Alcoa World Alumina Australia - AIRC - Polites SDP - 29 May 2003.

 

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