Director who handled explosives at work 'sacked for cannabis use'

Biotech firm director, 67, who handled explosive materials at his job was sacked ‘after smoking cannabis at work then driving a colleague under the influence’, tribunal hears

The science director of a biotech firm was sacked for smoking cannabis at work after colleagues smelt ‘wacky baccy’ in his company car and driving a colleague home whilst high, an employment tribunal heard.

Martyn Jutsum, 67, was fired after he ignored warnings about the need for him to have a ‘clear head’ at work – where they were handling potentially ‘explosive’ materials.

The final straw for bosses O3Biotech – a company Mr Jutsum co-founded – was when he ‘erratically’ drove a female colleague home from work, whilst under the influence of the drug.

During his suspension meeting, the scientist was asked to hand over the keys to the company car and the end of a joint fell out of his pockets which consolidated his bosses’ decision to dismiss him, the tribunal heard.

Mr Jutsum – who admitted to using cannabis recreationally – tried to sue the tech firm for unfair dismissal, but his claims have been dismissed.

Martyn Jutsum, 67, was fired after he ignored warnings about the need for him to have a ‘clear head’ at work, a tribunal heard

Mr Jutsum’s behaviour allegedly took place at the Dorset Innovation Park in Weymouth

The tribunal in Bristol heard Mr Jutsum had a background in scientific research and in 2016, he founded the tech company with Paul Draper, becoming science director the following year.

O3Biotech – based in Dorset – provides purification for air, feed and water supplies using ozone treatments to livestock in the agricultural sector.

The tribunal heard O3Biotech rented a five bedroom house near Dorset Innovation Park, Weymouth, which allowed employees to stay closer to work.

Mr Jutsum and his son Matthew were among a number of people to stay in the company house.

Also in the house was the company’s Technical Director Erik Helmink.

It was heard Mr Helmink became concerned in early 2022 with what he described as ‘excessive behaviour’ at the house, in relation to the consumption of alcohol and cannabis.

The 57 year old said although this behaviour was happening outside of work, he was worried that it risked ‘spilling over’ into the workplace.

Mr Helmink decided to send an email to Mr Jutsum and other housemates, stating that there is a ‘zero tolerance of alcohol and joints’ in the weeks leading up to one of their projects at the time.

He informed them they would ‘monitor each other’ on that.

Mr Helmink was concerned that the nature of the company’s work meant that they were working on a daily basis with explosive material – such as liquid oxygen – as well as heavy and dangerous machinery.

As such he deemed there was a significant risk to health and safety if something went wrong and he felt it was essential that those involved in the work had a ‘clear head’.

Mr Jutsum tried to sue his former company for unfair dismissal however his claims were dismissed

Giving evidence at the tribunal, Mr Jutsum – who was representing himself – accepted that he uses cannabis recreationally and did not object to Mr Helmink’s warning that using cannabis during work time could be dangerous.

Mr Helmink stated there were multiple occasions between May and June last year where he noticed a ‘strong cannabis smell’ on the science director.

In June 2022, Mr Jutsum gave a research analyst a lift back from the office and she told bosses that during this drive she was ‘frightened’.

The research analyst reported Mr Jutsum ‘drove erratically’, appeared not to concentrate and that on a number of occasions, she had to ‘draw his attention to cars braking in front of them’.

She was advised to write a statement and Mr Hemink, alongside Mr Draper, made the decision to suspend the science director pending further investigation.

On June 30 last year, they met with Mr Jutsum and told him he was suspended as they suspected he had used cannabis at work.

Mr Jutsum insisted ‘he had not hurt anyone’ and was surprised at the decision.

It was heard when he was asked to hand over the company car keys, a roach – the end of a joint – fell out of his pocket – but Mr Jutsum insisted this was the butt of an ordinary cigarette end.

At his subsequent disciplinary hearing it was heard that a security guard had made a reference to Mr Jutsum’s car smelling of ‘wacky baccy’

He denied smoking the drug at work and said the ‘smell of cannabis’ was in fact herbal cigarettes, but Mr Draper rejected this claim and fired him for misconduct.

Mr Jutsum tried to sue his former company for unfair dismissal.

However, these claims were dismissed.

‘[O3Biotech’s] disciplinary policy stated that being in possession of or under the influence of drugs at work would be regarded as serious misconduct,’ the tribunal’s judgement said.

‘Mr Draper had reasonable grounds to conclude that Mr Jutsum had been using cannabis at work on 23 June 2023 and had driven the company car, with another employee in it, whilst under the influence of cannabis.

‘He was entitled to view that as serious misconduct justifying summary dismissal, particularly given the nature of the work being carried out by [O3Biotech] and the risks to health and safety that this work could involve.’

MailOnline has approached Mr Jutsum for comment.  

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