Safety Culture: Dealing with Unruly Workers

Failure to follow laid down procedure in discipline cases that lead to injuries at the work place is likely to have adverse impacts on the employer.

Safety Culture: Dealing with Unruly Workers

Failure to follow laid down procedure in dealing with discipline cases that lead to injuries at the work place is likely to have severe adverse impacts on the employer. 

This was best illustrated in a case filed in the Industrial court in Kenya (now Employment and Labour Relations Court) in April, 2012. In the case, one Mr. Cheserek demanded compensation from his former employer, Athi River Steel Plant alleging that his contract of employment was unfairly and unlawfully terminated. 

In his claim, Cheserek who was employed in the moulding / casting section stated that he was He was injured on his forehead by a Machine that was in use at the workplace. He was treated at the nearby Athi River Medical Services. When he went back to work after treatment, he was told his contract of employment had been terminated.

In response to the suit, the employer held that the termination was fair and justifiable. Through the Human Resource Manager the company stated that contrary to Mr. Cheserek's claims, he had actually been injured during a fight with a co-worker within the company premises. Both fighters were summarily dismissed after the company investigated the incident. 

In determining the case, the court established that although the HR Manager claimed to have investigated the incident with the assistance of the Shop-floor Union Representative, there was no investigations report prepared at the end of the process. No formal charges were brought against the workers involved and there were no warning letters issued to the worker.

The court noted that it was clear that the claimant had attempted to alter the cause of his injuries, probably in an attempt to avoid disciplinary sanction after he was involved in fight at the workplace with a co-worker.

However, the court however noted that there were certain procedural defects in the manner the company carried out its decision to terminate Cheserek's employment. 

  1. There were no formal charges, and no investigation report was compiled.   
  2. No form of disciplinary hearing that would satisfy the requirements of Section 41 of the Employment Act 2007, took place.  
  3. No disciplinary panel was convened before the letter of summary dismissal issued. 
  4. The Claimant was entitled to have formal charges, explaining to him in a language he understands, the offences against him. He was entitled to be accompanied to the disciplinary hearing by a Co-Worker, or a Trade Union Representative of his choice, at the panel hearing. The Respondent had an obligation to hear out the Claimant. 

As a result the court held that the Termination of the Claimant's contract of employment was unfair on account of procedure and awarded that he be paid a half months' salary at in full and final settlement. 

Source: Kenya Law

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