06:52 pm, Saturday 17 July, 2010
The Ringwood Magistrates’ Court has convicted an apprentice on July 1 after setting a new worker on fire as a prank.
The workplace prank took place on January 2008 at a Hallam workshop, where three apprentice mechanics sprayed brake-cleaning fluid on a colleague and set the flammable chemical alight.
The injured apprentice had been working at the business for just three days when the prank took place.
He had to stay in the hospital for a week to treat his burn injuries.
The 23-year-old prankster was the third apprentice to be prosecuted by WorkSafe for the incident.
He was convicted on three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and was fined $5,000.
In December 2008, the two other apprentices were both convicted of health and safety charges. Each was also fined $5,000 for the incident.
WorkSafe is currently looking into a similar occurrence in Dandenong in March, where two apprentice mechanics allegedly ignited brake fluid and injured themselves in the process.
“This sort of behaviour might be called horseplay or excused as a prank – but can lead to serious, permanent injuries. It’s against the law and it’s not acceptable,” WorkSafe’s Strategic Programs Director Trevor Martin said.
Mr Martin noted young workers are are less likely to report incidents of bullying or pranks that go too far.
“We want young workers to know that just because their mate’s the one carrying out the prank, it doesn’t make it ok.”
WorkSafe is currently running a program targeting 15-24 year olds in the workplace. Its purpose is to ensure that workplaces have transparent policies in place for bullying and harassment; that young people aware that it is not acceptable; and that they can seek help.
“In this case, the company had done the right thing – they’d spelt out their expectation that bullying and pranks would not be tolerated, and disciplined all three apprentices on a previous occasion,” Mr Martin said.
“Our message for other companies employing young workers is clear – the company’s rules around this kind of behaviour need to be clearly communicated, and young workers need to be supervised.
“The injured apprentice had been working for the company for only three days. WorkSafe knows that new workers are more vulnerable – they’re more likely than other workers to get severe injuries and be hospitalised. That’s why they need even more supervision at this time.
“You don’t go to work to muck around with dangerous substances – situations like this can escalate and eventually someone will get hurt,” he said.