Builder fined $12,500 for shocking apprentice bullying

by John Maguire09 Jun 2016
A building apprentice in Victoria was subjected to “appalling” bullying and physical abuse over a two-year period from his boss and colleagues, leading to severe emotional trauma, a court has found.

The apprentice’s manager at construction company Quality Carpentry and Building Maintenance, Wayne Allan Dennert, pleaded guilty to workplace safety violations in Geelong Magistrates' Court. He was convicted and fined $12,500.

The apprentice was forced to swallow methylated spirits, had hot drill bits held to his skin and had sandpaper scraped on his face. Mr Dennert also snatched the apprentice’s phone and posted sexually explicit comments to a female friend’s social media page. 

In other instances of bullying, co-workers placed a live mouse in the apprentice’s shirt, sprayed liquid nails in his hair, spat on him and held him down whilst others painted on his face. The bullying was “encouraged” and “actively participated in” by Mr. Dennert.
 
Marnie Williams, health and safety director with Worksafe Victoria, condemned Mr. Dennert’s behaviour.

"No employee should have to suffer such cruel, vicious and repeated behaviour at work, particularly a young man just starting his working life," she said. "Because of their inexperience, young workers are particularly vulnerable to psychological and physical risks in the workplace, which is why superiors and employers must take a real interest in their health and safety."

"Today's conviction will be a permanent reminder to him, and the community in which he works, that he failed completely."
 
The apprentice, who began employment with Mr. Dennert at the age of 16, said he continued to suffer from anxiety, depression, nightmares and insomnia as a result of the workplace bullying, describing the emotional impact as more traumatic than the physical abuse.

The apprentice, who began employment with Mr. Dennert at the age of 16, said he continued to suffer from anxiety, depression, nightmares and insomnia as a result of the workplace bullying, describing the emotional impact as more traumatic than the physical abuse.

"I would rather be burnt, bruised, assaulted, drenched in glue, water, paint, weeks’ old coffee and spat on all over again than to relive a week of the psychological torment I endured," he said in court.
 

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