Workers sanctioned over safety breach that ‘could have led to explosion’

Worker at Johnson & Johnson contact lens plant challenges penalty against him

An unauthorised bypass to a safety mechanism at a Limerick contact lens factory "could have led to an explosion" if it had not been discovered during an overnight shift, the Workplace Relations Commission has been told.

Sixteen workers across two shifts at the Johnson & Johnson plant were sanctioned after nobody came forward to admit responsibility, an equality hearing was told on Tuesday.

The details emerged following a complaint under the Equal Status Act by technician Michael Meade, who claims he was discriminated against by his employer.

“There was a safety incident at work, chair, I’m not denying it was bad,” Mr Meade said, as he represented himself at an equality hearing. “I wasn’t there when it happened,” he said, adding that he exclusively worked the day shift.


Mr Meade said he objected to the sanction imposed, which amounted to the loss of a bonus worth €190 and a note being placed on his employee file.

Jennifer Cashman of Ronan Daly Jermyn Solicitors, for Johnson & Johnson, said a safety-critical element of the machine had been bypassed. It could have been done at any point and not by one shift or the other.

“Nobody came forward to admit responsibility,” she said.

The hearing turned to procedural matters around how Mr Meade claimed he had been discriminated against in ways that breached the legislation.

Adjudicating officer Peter O’Brien adjourned the hearing to allow time for the parties to make submissions.