FIFTEEN employees and contractors were dismissed apparent safety breaches after performing or watching the Harlem Shake dance on site at WA’s Agnew underground gold mine. The video of the employees and contractors performing the internet craze was
subsequently posted onto popular video sharing site YouTube.
The Harlem Shake internet meme involves groups of people erratically dancing to the popular song of the same name for about 30 seconds and posting the result to YouTube. It has been estimated that since 2 February, when the first Harlem Shake video was
posted to YouTube a further 40,000 videos have been posted, receiving more than 175 million views.
The dismissed Agnew mine employees reportedly advised The West Australian newspaper that those participating did not believe they had been involved in any serious safety breaches, as they continued to wear helmets, lamps and safety glasses during the dance.
However, a number employees appear bare chested in the footage with some safety equipment removed. This event, and the previous planking meme, demonstrates the speed with which internet crazes can develop, spread and become viral. It also highlights the difficulty that employers have in predicting when and how these events might occur in the workplace.
To combat these safety issues occurring in workplaces, industrial relations firm Livingstones recommends that employers have comprehensive workplace health and safety policies in place. These should cover a range of possible employee behaviours and
consequences. It is also important to re-iterate health and safety policies regularly with employees so they are front of mind and curb any potential breaches before they begin.
Many mine sites have safety moments to discuss a potential safety breaches and how they were overcome.
Situations like the Agnew Mine could be used as external examples on what not to do and the consequences for breaches.
While the dismissal of these 15 employees may seem unsympathetic it is important to note that mining companies must apply their health and safety policies consistently.
A consequence of inconsistency could mean an unfavourable ruling by
The Fair Work Commission. It is also important that all employees are highly aware of the policies, and consequences to safeguard their own health and safety in the workplace.