Fines for 'mates' who burn apprentice in prank

Wednesday, 10 December, 2008

WorkSafe Victoria prosecuted two men who set their workmate alight in a workplace prank that went horribly wrong in January 2008. Both men pleaded guilty to workplace health and safety charges and were each convicted and fined $5000.

Magistrate Peter Reardon said the two men went “far beyond larrikin behaviour” when they ignited brake-cleaning fluid sprayed on an apprentice who had only been working with them for three days. The two defendants had been disciplined the previous day for setting brake fluid alight, so it was inevitable that someone would be hurt.

The court was told the 17-year-old apprentice was off work for several months with first-, second- and third-degree burns which required surgery, the application of artificial skin and physiotherapy. The two defendants were sacked — yet remain friends with the injured man.

WorkSafe's executive director (health and safety), John Merritt, said it was the latest in a string of recent prosecutions involving workplace pranks: "Along with WorkSafe's current campaign urging young workers to speak up about safety concerns, this case, and others like it, is a warning that there are consequences for breaching safety laws.

"Many young people are joining the workforce at this time of year and in coming months. What they do not need to deal with is people playing pranks which puts them, and others, at risk.

"The people involved in these cases do not set out to hurt anyone. What they have to realise is that many incidents where people are just having ‘fun’ don't have a happy ending. What begins as a bit of fun can lead to serious, permanent injuries.

“Just because you're young, you're not indestructible — in fact you're more vulnerable because the potential for serious consequences is not always recognised.”


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