Driver ‘unfairly dismissed’ over fuel spillage is reinstated
The dismissal of a tanker driver for spilling fuel on a Tesco forecourt was unfair despite him being blameworthy.
That was the decision of the Employment Tribunal, which reinstated him and awarded him £23,000 compensation.
The case involved Mr D Nolan who had worked for XPO Bulk UK Ltd since 2010. In December 2015, he delivered fuel to a Tesco store in Chichester.
He carried out the required checks before commencing but as he filled one of the tanks, the alarm sounded. Mr Nolan checked the system but didn’t find any warning lights on the driver-controlled delivery box.
He said the alarm sounded again but there were still no warning lights, so he shut down the alarm and continued doing some paperwork.
He later realised he had misread the amount of space left in the tank and pressed the emergency stop button. As he did so, a Tesco staff member informed him that fuel had spilled on to the forecourt.
The Fire Service was called to inspect the scene and make it safe. This simply involved cleaning up and spreading sand of the affected area, which was then declared safe.
Mr Nolan faced a disciplinary hearing and was dismissed without notice for having brought the company into disrepute.
He brought a claim to the Employment Tribunal, which ruled in his favour after hearing that the company had been warned previously about a possible sensor fault in the tank involved in the spillage. Mr Nolan was not told about this.
The judge held that Mr Nolan had been “culpable or blameworthy” but nevertheless his dismissal was “unfair as he would not have been dismissed by a reasonable employer” for his mistake in assessing the situation.
The tribunal awarded him £23,000 for loss of earnings and benefits. It also ordered that he should get his job back.
Please contact Sorcha Monaghan about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.