Driver wins unfair dismissal case

A lorry driver sacked from his job after he was spotted drinking and smoking outside a social club while on sick leave was unfairly dismissed, according to an employment tribunal.

Colin Kane, 66, was a driver for Ryton-based surfacing firm Debmat and suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It meant he had periods of absence due to ill-health and it was during one of these that he was spotted by a colleague at a social club in March 2020. Debmat’s MD John Turner later phoned Kane, who told him he had been in bed all day, although he later admitted to being at the social club for 15 minutes one day and 30 minutes on another. The driver was then told he was being investigated for “dishonesty and breach of company regulations”. At a disciplinary meeting led by the MD, Kane was dismissed and in a follow-up letter it said he was guilty of a serious and wilful breach of the company’s rules, which was considered to be gross misconduct.

However, an employment tribunal found that Debmat’s investigation was flawed. Judge Pitt said there were errors in making a proper record of the allegations against Kane.

In his judgment, he said: “There is no rule the respondent can point to, which says that an employee cannot socialise in whatever way they deem appropriate whilst absent from work through illness.” Among other failings, the Judge also said it was also inappropriate for the MD to deal with the disciplinary hearing as he was the person who took the initial complaint.

Fine for BAM Nuttall after employee killed by truck

HSE

Construction firm BAM Nuttall has been fined £700,000 after an employee was run over and killed by a six-tonne dumper truck.

Inverness Sheriff Court heard that on 28 October 2016, at Blackhillock Substation in Keith, Moray, John Cameron was changing over a blade on a piece of work equipment at the side of a roadway when he was struck by the vehicle. He sustained serious pelvic injuries and died as a result.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Bam Nuttall failed to adequately assess the risks to its employees whilst they were repairing and replacing equipment. It failed to provide a system of work in relation to the task being undertaken, which defined a place or places where the work could be carried out safely and which also segregated people from vehicles.

The company, which holds standard national operator licences in three traffic areas, authorising between 10 and 12 HGVs, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined the six-figure sum.

Penny Falconer, HSE inspector, said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a man. This death could easily have been prevented if his employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved, and to put a safe system of work in place.”