In a first for South Australia, a supervisor on a construction site was recently convicted and fined for bullying an apprentice who was set on fire.
SafeWork SA secured a conviction against Jeffrey Rowe for the category 1 offence under section 31 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.
The conviction was in relation to an incident in which an apprentice was squirted with flammable liquid and set alight while at work in March 2017.
Rowe was employed as a site supervisor by Tad-Mar Electrical when the incident occurred.
Rowe was convicted of the offence and fined $12,000 (after a 40 per cent reduction) plus court costs, prosecution costs and victims of crime levy.
He was entitled to a discount of up to 40 per cent due to his early guilty plea.
SafeWork SA Executive Director Martyn Campbell said this sentence should send a clear message to all businesses that the bullying of any worker will not be tolerated.
“The health and safety of young workers is critical,” he said.
“This includes protecting them from psychological harm as well as physical harm.
“The behaviour of this supervisor was atrocious.
“In his supervisory role, there is an expectation he would immediately put a stop to this type of harmful action and certainly not engage in it himself.”
This case reinforces the importance of having a process in place to ensure bullying does not occur in the workplace, according to Campbell, who said this should include the training of workers in how to manage any instances of bullying and reassurances that reporting such behaviour can occur confidentially and without fear of repercussions.
“I hope this sentence serves as a warning to all people in leadership positions that SafeWork SA will enforce individual actions where leaders don’t follow their statutory duty of care for workers in their charge,” Campbell said.
Luke Daniel Chenoweth, another site supervisor involved in the incident, as well as the employer Tad-Mar Electrical, have also both been charged with offences under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.