Repeated incidents of bullying resulted in a $12,500 fine for a builder in Geelong.
According to WorkSafe Victoria, the man repeatedly bullied his teenage apprentice over a two-year period until he left in April 2015. He suffered verbal, physical and psychological bullying and harassment while working under the builder’s carpentry business.
The builder pleaded guilty to one rolled-up charge under the 2004 OHS Act of failing to provide a safe system of work and the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to employees in relation to workplace bullying.
The investigation revealed that the man not only encouraged workers to bully the teenage apprentice but actively participated. Some of the physical incidents included a live mouse being put down the back of his shirt by an employee, being spat on by an employee, and being drenched with water by an employee. There was also an incident when the builder held hot drill saw bits and baton screws into the victim’s bare skin, scraping sandpaper across his face, and slapping the teenager on his leg with a piece of timber.
The court also heard the builder regularly called the apprentice derogatory names and questioned him about his sex life.
In a victim impact statement, the apprentice said he continues to suffer from anxiety, depression, nightmares and insomnia caused by the bullying.
“I would rather be burnt, bruised, assaulted, drenched in glue, water, paint week’s old coffee and spat on all over again than to relive a week of the psychological torment I endured,” the apprentice told the court.
WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams said workplace bullying should never be tolerated.
“Not only did he use his position of power to encourage a bullying culture among his workers, he actively participated,” said Ms. Williams.
“No employee should have to suffer such cruel, vicious and repeated behavior at work, particularly a young man just starting his work 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.”
Ms. Williams reminded employers and businesses of their legal obligation to protect workers from bullying of any form.
“Today’s conviction will be a permanent reminder to him, and the community in which he works, that he failed completely.”