Colin Wiggins arrives at the inquiry into the death of his former apprentice Alec Meikle. Photo: Kate Geraghty
A Bathurst boilermaker accused of ruthlessly bullying a teenage apprentice has admitted he stood idly by while the teenager was subjected to ''gross, violent and abhorrent'' suggestions from colleagues.
But Colin Wiggins, who was given the task of supervising teenager Alec Meikle when the 17-year-old began work as an apprentice at train manufacturer Downer EDI, told Glebe Coroner's court the company had a culture against ''dobbing''.
An inquest into Meikle's death has heard that within days of starting the apprenticeship at Downer's Bathurst plant, the young man was allegedly subjected to near-constant verbal abuse and put downs by Mr Wiggins, including being called a ''f---n useless c---''. Other staff allegedly burnt Meikle with a welding torch, sprayed him with adhesive spray, set him on fire and suggested that he would be raped with a steel dildo if he made too many mistakes.
Alec Meikle, who killed himself aged 17 after alleged bullying at his workplace.
In October 2008 Meikle hanged himself with yellow rope from a staircase bannister.
On Thursday Mr Wiggins, who was suspended from supervisory duties for three months after the bullying was reported, denied ever bullying or abusing Alec, and said he had been ''very shocked'' when the allegations were first put to him in May 2008.
''I couldn't see those sort of allegations happening,'' he said.
''I'd never seen it before and I'd never heard of it happening.'' But the 40-year-old admitted he knew that staff at Downer EDI had put up a ''sphincter dilation'' chart in relation to Alec. The teenager's mistakes were allegedly recorded on the chart and it was allegedly suggested that he would be raped with a steel dildo if the top of the chart was reached.
Mr Wiggins said he had seen staff, including Meikle, standing around the chart ''laughing'', and that he thought it was just another of the ''practical jokes'' that were commonplace at the plant.
''You would have known that that was a gross, violent and abhorrent thing to suggest,'' the barrister representing WorkCover at the inquest, Robert Reitano said.
''That's correct,'' Mr Wiggins replied.
''And you did nothing about it?'' ''Correct.'' Mr Wiggins said that he had been given no training in how to deal with such situations, or about the vulnerabilities of working with young people generally.
He said the workplace had a culture against telling management about inappropriate behaviour.
''The reason that you didn't want to do anything about the sphincter dilation chart was that the culture didn't encourage dobbing,'' Mr Reitano said.
''Correct.'' ''You didn't want your mates in trouble?'' ''Correct.'' The boilermaker told the court that in hindsight he ''would have done a lot of things differently''.
But he claimed that he had been an ''approachable'', ''responsible'' manager, and that he had ''no idea'' why Meikle had made allegations against him personally.
The hearing continues.
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