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Success In Whistleblowing And H & S Claims – Whistleblowing

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RFB’s Employment Team has successfully acted on behalf of a
Forklift Truck Driver who was suspended and then dismissed by his
employer for whistleblowing about dangerous loading of pallets in a

The Facts

The Claimant was operating a forklift truck to move a pallet
when it fell at a height of 9m. This was because it was dangerously
loaded with packages that were overhanging the pallet and kept
together with cellophane. The packages can weigh around 500kg, so
the fallen pallet could have had fatal consequences for workers on
the warehouse floor below. The Claimant immediately reported the
incident to one of his supervisors, but no further action was
taken, nor was the incident documented. A few days later, the
Claimant observed a further overloaded pallet which he again
reported to his supervisor, but he was told to continue

When the Claimant saw another overloaded pallet, he retrieved
his mobile phone from his locker and used it to photograph the
danger. He subsequently showed these photos to the Health and
Safety Officer.

Later that day the Claimant was suspended. The employer alleged
this was for using his mobile in the warehouse during work hours in
breach of their rules. The Claimant was called a few days later and
he was dismissed during the call, without following any of the
employer’s contractual disciplinary procedures.

The Tribunal’s decision

The Tribunal found that the Claimant’s reporting of the
dangers presented by overloaded pallets amounted to qualifying
disclosures. EJ Havard stated that “it must be in the
public interest if the aim of the disclosure was [to] ensure the
health and safety of the workforce”
. In photographing the
pallets, the Claimant was held to have brought his concerns to the
employer by reasonable means. His actions were appropriate in order
to protect himself and other workers.

The Tribunal was unconvinced by the employer’s submission
that the dismissal related to the Claimant’s improper use of
his mobile phone. They decided that suspending the Claimant
amounted to a detriment. The Tribunal also concluded that the
reason for the Claimant’s dismissal related to him making
qualifying disclosures of health and safety concerns.

The Tribunal further found that the Claimant was entitled to be
paid for the period of his suspension, and that the failure of the
Respondent to pay him during that period was an unlawful deduction
from wages. Finally, the Claimant’s dismissal amounted to a
breach of contract, entitling him to 4 weeks’ notice pay in
accordance with his contract.

The Award

The Tribunal awarded the Claimant compensation in the total sum
of £15,019.46, which included a sum of £3000 for
aggravated damages due to the employer having behaved in what could
be described as an insulting manner.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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