Canadian Labour Reporter

May 25, 2020

Canadian Labour Reporter is the trusted source of information for labour relations professionals. Published weekly, it features news, details on collective agreements and arbitration summaries to help you stay on top of the changing landscape.

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ARBITRATION AWARDS Provision ensures indefinite health benefits for workers on LTD Alberta worker didn't follow procedures in safety-sensitive position February 2018. Tidewater had a progressive discipline policy con- sisting of four steps from verbal warning to termination. Safety was important at the plant as the production of sour gas involved hazardous substan- ces. After Tidewater purchased the Brazeau plant, it relied on the safety policies already in place and was slow in developing its own. On May 9, 2018, the worker was involved in the recommissioning of a sour gas facility that had been shut down for repairs. Problems were found in a Claus Converter vessel — used for recovering sul- fur from natural gas — that re- quired a closer look. The worker agreed with other employees that it wasn't safe to put someone in the vessel because its support beams were weakened. Initial attempts to see inside the vessel were unsuccessful, so the worker decided that he would enter it himself and take pictures. The worker didn't fill out confined space entry documentation and he didn't have a confined space certificate, although health and safety legislation required "a valid entry permit" for a confined space at a work site. The worker wasn't wearing proper safety glasses because he would have had to take them off to use the camera. Inside the vessel, he got some chemical dust in his left eye. He flushed his eye at the plant, informed his foreman of the incident, and drove himself to the hospital for treatment. On May 24, the worker was sus- pended pending an investigation into the incident. A third-party in- vestigator recommended Tidewa- ter take disciplinary action against the worker and implement a plan to track certifications required at each of its facilities. Tidewater suspended the work- er a second time after it learned that the worker climbed up scaf- folding and opened up a flange to vent gas without proper respira- tory equipment and with other employees nearby. The worker said he had already tested the gas line twice and deemed it to be safe after finding no chemicals pres- ent, but he hadn't followed offi- cial procedure. An investigation found the worker had taken steps "to mitigate risk to an acceptable level" before venting the gas and recommended Tidewater develop its policies. On June 28, Tidewater dis- missed the worker for disobey- ing "a clear and reasonable or- der that no one enter the Clause Converter vessel," failing to com- plete confined space documen- tation, refusing to wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and releasing gas without proper breathing apparatus near others. The arbitrator found there was no "clear and reasonable order" to not enter the vessel; rather the worker and others agreed no one should enter and then the worker decided to go in himself. No operators had previously been disciplined for not having confined space doc- umentation, so disciplining the worker would be discrimina- tory, the arbitrator said. The arbitrator also found that Tidewater employees were "very casual about wearing PPE" and there was no evidence of previous discipline for not wearing it. As for the second incident, the evidence was that the worker had made an effort to mitigate the risk. Once again, there was no previous discipline for such conduct and Tidewater policies had not been brought to the attention of em- ployees properly. In addition, the arbitrator not- ed that Tidewater had failed to fol- low its own progressive discipline policy. The company was ordered to reinstate the worker with a written warning. Reference: Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure and Unifor. Alan Beattie — arbitrator. Christopher Dormer for employer. Drew Blaikie for employee. Jan. 24, 2020. 2020 CarswellAlta 780

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