Worker fined $12,000 for bullying at work

Jun 20 2019

Jeffrey Mark Rowe was successfully prosecuted for bullying a co-worker under a Category 1 Work Health and Safety (WHS) offence.

 
Rowe pleaded guilty to a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) for reckless conduct, which exposed his fellow worker — an apprentice — to a risk of death or serious injury.
 
On 25 March 2017, in a lunchtime ‘workplace prank’, an apprentice electrician was squirted with a flammable liquid and set alight.
 
Rowe and Luke Daniel Chenoweth — both site supervisors at the time — were charged by SafeWork SA following the incident. Chenoweth’s case remains before the South Australian Employment Court as does that of his employer, Tad-Mar Electrical. Tad-Mar Electrical is being prosecuted for a Category 2 offence.
 
Chenoweth was charged with allegedly squirting flammable liquid onto the apprentice’s boot, pants and shirt. He was also alleged to have used a cigarette lighter to ignite the liquid on the apprentice’s boot and shirt, and to have threatened to light his pants while chasing him around the lunchroom. Rowe was convicted for failing to take steps to stop Chenoweth from squirting and igniting the liquid and for failing to take steps to extinguish the flames on the apprentice’s shirt. He was also convicted for squirting more flammable liquid on the apprentice’s shirt while it burned.
 
Fortunately, the apprentice was not seriously injured.
 
This is a significant decision for employers and employees because it shows anyone can be prosecuted in relation to workplace bullying behaviour.
 
In his judgment, Deputy President Magistrate Cole noted the primary allegation against Rowe was “that he failed to intervene to stop the actions of Chenoweth”, serving as a reminder that all workers have an obligation to take reasonable care that their omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. This finding, coupled with the prosecution against Tad-Mar Electrical, emphasises the importance of employers having systems and procedures in place to ensure bullying does not occur in the workplace and, if it does, provide appropriate training for all workers to ensure they know how and when to intervene.
 
Source:NSCA Foundation

Last changed: Jun 20 2019 at 12:14 PM

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