An Australian carpenter, Wayne Allan Dennert, has been convicted
of bullying his teenage apprentice, after charges were brought by
Worksafe Victoria under their health and safety legislation.
The bullying of the apprentice was particularly egregious,
a live mouse being put down the back of his shirt by an
being drenched with water, spat on, and having 'Liquid
Nails' squirted in his hair by an employee;
Dennert holding a rag doused in methylated spirits over his
mouth, holding hot drill saw bits to his bare skin, smearing
plaster across his face and into his eye and ear, and scraping
sandpaper across his face;
Dennert regularly calling him derogatory names and questioning
him about his sex life; and
Dennert taking his mobile phone and posting an inappropriate
sexual comment on his female friend's profile page and making
him believe Dennert had posted a comment on another female
The court decided that during the relevant period, Dennert had
engaged in workplace bullying and encouraged his employees to
participate in bullying behaviour. Dennert was convicted of failing
to provide a safe system of work and the necessary information,
instruction, training and supervision to employees in relation to
Dennert pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of
$12,500 and costs of $757.71.
This case serves as an important reminder that health and safety
laws extend beyond the prevention of accidents in the workplace.
Bullying should be treated as any other workplace risk, and
measures should be put in place to eliminate the risk (including
training that bullying is not acceptable, and a complaint mechanism
to raise any bullying that is taking place) and to monitor the
workplace to ensure that bullying is not occurring.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
This WHS decision clarified the interpretation of s 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
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