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SafeWork SA secures conviction over bullying of construction apprentice

Media Release
3 June 2019

In a first for South Australia, SafeWork SA has been successful in securing a conviction against Jeffrey Mark Rowe for a Category 1 offence under section 31 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012. The conviction was in relation to an apprentice being squirted with flammable liquid and set alight whilst at work in March 2017.

Jeffrey Rowe was employed as a site supervisor by Tad-Mar Electrical Pty Ltd when the incident occurred. The charges laid against Rowe by SafeWork SA were as follows:

Contrary to section 31 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA). Jeffrey Rowe had a health and safety duty, failed to comply with that duty and that failure exposed Austin Courtney to a risk of death or serious injury.

Mr Rowe was convicted of the offence and fined $12,000 (after a 40 per cent reduction) plus court costs, prosecution costs and victims of crime levy. He was entitled to a discount of up to 40 per cent due to his early guilty plea.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Martyn Campbell said this sentence should send a clear message to all businesses that the bullying of any worker will not be tolerated.

“The health and safety of young workers is critical. This includes protecting them from psychological harm as well as physical harm.

The behaviour of this supervisor was atrocious. In his supervisory role, there is an expectation he would immediately put a stop to this type of harmful action and certainly not engage in it himself.”

This case reinforces the importance of having a process in place to ensure bullying does not occur in the workplace. This should include the training of workers in how to manage any instances of bullying and reassurances that reporting such behaviour can occur confidentially and without fear of repercussions.

I hope this sentence serves as a warning to all people in leadership positions that SafeWork SA will enforce individual actions where leaders don’t follow their statutory duty of care for workers in their charge,” Mr Campbell said.

Luke Daniel Chenoweth, another site supervisor involved in the incident, as well as the employer Tad-Mar Electrical Pty Ltd have also both been charged with offences under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.

They will both face court on 17 July 2019.