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WorkSafe Victoria convicted and fined a Geelong builder for repeated bullying of a teenage apprentice over a two year period

Submitted on Thursday, 12th October 2017

October is National Safe Work Month, and reminds us all to re-focus our commitment to building a safe and healthy workplace for all with events occurring all across Australia. This includes ensuring workplaces are safe not only in terms of physical safety but that mental health is also considered. This includes protecting against workplace bullying and focusing on vulnerable groups in the workplace such as young workers – those under 25 years old.  

A recent prosecution by WorkSafe Victoria convicted and fined a Geelong builder for repeated bullying of a teenage apprentice over a two year period. According to WorkSafe, the victim began working for the small carpentry business, Quality Carpentry and Building Maintenance, in 2013 as a 16 year old. Until he left in 2015, he suffered from incidents of verbal, physical and psychological bullying and harassment. The court heard that the business owner, Wayne Dennert, not only encouraged employees to participate in bullying behaviour against the teenage but actively participated. Some of the physical incidents included:

  • A live mouse being put down the back of his shirt by an employee.
  • Being drenched with water by an employee.
  • Being spat on by an employee.
  • Having ‘Liquid Nails’ squirted in his hair by an employee.
  • Dennert taking his mobile phone and posting an inappropriate sexual comment on his female friend’s profile page.
  • Dennert taking his mobile phone and making him believe Dennert had posted a comment on another female friend’s profile.
  • Dennert ripping his work shorts.
  • Dennert holding a rag doused in methylated spirits over his mouth.
  • Dennert holding hot drill saw bits and baton screws to his bare skin.
  • Dennert smearing plaster across his face and into his eye and ear.
  • Dennert slapping him on his leg with a piece of timber.
  • Dennert scraping sandpaper across his face.
  • Dennert grabbing him from behind and pinning his arms while another employee painted a strip of paint across his face.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said Dennert’s behaviour had been appalling. “Not only did he use his position of power to encourage a bullying culture among his workers, he actively participated,” Ms Williams said. “No employee should have to suffer such cruel, vicious and repeated behaviour at work, particularly a young man just starting his working life. “Because of their inexperience, young workers are particularly vulnerable to psychological and physical risks in the workplace, which is why supervisors and employers must take a real interest in their health and safety.”

The Victorian Chamber, in partnership with EML, recently launched a series of resources for employers to assist with the management of young workers as part of the ‘Supporting Young Workers’ program. The resources are all freely available on the Victorian Chamber website.

In addition, Victorian Chamber members can access a sample Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying policy from our Member Resources page.

To find out more about what’s happening during Health and Safety month, visit Safe Work Australia and WorkSafe Victoria’s websites where a range of events, resources and events can be found.

If you would like assistance in managing young worker safety or mental health in the workplace, contact the Victorian Chamber’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing experts at hsw@victorianchamber.com.au or call 03 8662 5333.

 

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