In a recent case a business has been charged 80% of a $945,000 injury payment for the role of its employee and systems in allowing the injury of a person due to the machine operator being distracted by using a mobile phone.  In a second case the Fair Work Commission has confirmed that termination for a single breach of a mobile phone use policy in the transport was fair.  Today’s HR Highlight will explore these two cases.

Phone breach leads to huge penalty

In the first mobile phone breach case an injury resulted in huge penalties to the employer.

A machinery operator was using a mobile phone, in contravention of the business policy, when another staff member approached him. The staff member received what he thought was a nod from the machine operator and approached only to receive serious injury to his foot.  The nod was given by the machinery operator in response to the mobile phone conversation, not to the staff member, who the operator had not seen.

In determining the businesses fault liability, the court considered the presence of a mobile phone use policy, which the business had, and its application within the business, which had been inconsistent and ineffectual.

Simply having the policy that machine operators must not use a mobile phone while operating machinery, did not discharge the businesses responsibility to provide for the safe working.  Enforcement of the policy was required.

In handing down the decision, the courts noted that the business could have, with small modifications to the way machinery operators are contacted by other staff, ensured that the operator had seen the approaching staff member and had provided a specific signal to indicate that it was safe to approach, rather than a nod.

Phone breach leads to dismissal

In the second case of mobile phone breach the Fair Work Commission has upheld a dismissal of a transport worker who used a phone whilst driving in contravention of the businesses policy. The Commission found that the policy had been well communicated and that the employee’s stated reasons for answering the phone; that it was a reflex and that it was no less safe than operating the radio, were not significant enough reasons to breach the business policy.

Phone use policies

In both cases there was a policy. In the first case the policy was not well communicated or enforced, the businesses mediocre application of the policy became the key reason for the findings against the business. In the second case the policy was well communicated, consistently enforced and a clear priority in the business; as such the findings were in favour of the business.  This can be the differe

ACAPMA reminds members that good policies inform culture and behavior while empowering the business to make decisions, but to be good the policy must always: reflect reality not aspirations, be communicated well and often, be enforced and be consistently applied to be an asset to the business instead of a liability.

Here to Help

ACAPMA Members are reminded that they can access resources and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMA Employment Professionals on 1300 160 270.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by  calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Employment Professionals its free for members. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $770 per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts. Click here to apply for ACAPMA membership.

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