Australian Man Fined $21,000 Over Workplace Bullying
An Adelaide construction supervisor who doused an apprentice in flammable liquid before setting his clothes on fire in an act of "gross stupidity" has been handed a $21,000 fine.
Tad-Mar Electrical employee Luke Daniel Chenoweth had been supervising a worksite at suburban Woodville when he and another leader, Jeffrey Mark Rowe, targeted the 19-year-old man in March 2017.
The South Australian Employment Tribunal has heard Chenoweth, 28, chased the man, squirted flammable liquid and ignited his shirt and boots.
He would have suffered second-degree burns if the shirt was left on his body for another 20 seconds.
Chenoweth, who pleaded guilty to breaching workplace safety laws, was on Wednesday convicted and fined $21,000 - the most significant workplace bullying penalty in South Australian history.
In his published reasons, Deputy President Magistrate Stuart Cole said Chenoweth exposed the man to a risk of death or serious injury through a "serious act of gross stupidity".
"The potential for a devastating outcome from this incident was real," he said.
"(Chenoweth) chased (the victim) who was trying to get away from what must have been a frightening situation.
"(The victim) was an apprentice with little if any control or influence over the defendant as a supervisor."
WorkSafe SA executive director Martyn Campbell said the victim should never have been subjected to such harassment at work.
"He was verbally abused, he had his tools hidden, he was locked in containers," he told reporters outside the tribunal.
"So for him, it was pretty traumatic and probably a lot more serious for him than other people would consider."
Campbell said the penalty sent a strong message that workplace bullying would not be tolerated.
"We all have children or somebody that we love, we send them to work and we expect them to be looked after and supervisors to have a responsibility to make sure that they're safe," he said.
Chenoweth, who has found a new job doing similar work, made no comment as he left the tribunal following the brief hearing.
Earlier this year, Rowe was convicted and fined $12,000 for his involvement in the incident.
Tad-Mar Electrical has also pleaded guilty and will return to the tribunal in October.
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