Vic urges workplace safety prioritisation after 65 died in 2020
WorkSafe Victoria is urging all Victorians to prioritise workplace health and safety, following the tragic deaths of 65 workers in 2020. The toll was five fewer than 2019, when 70 people died from work-related injuries or disease. WorkSafe Victoria Chief Executive Colin Radford said Victorian employers and workers can and must do more to reduce the number of workplace deaths, adding that every death is a tragedy for families, workplaces and communities grappling with the loss of a loved one.
“These are not numbers or statistics. They are loved members of our families and communities. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, siblings, colleagues and team mates, who died as a result of a workplace incident that should have been avoided. There is no excuse for taking shortcuts and failing to make health and safety your number one priority,” Radford said.
The 2020 toll includes 29 workers who died in a Victorian workplace incident and 20 workers who died in work-related road incidents. Additionally, 13 workers died from the effects of disease contracted as a result of their work. One worker died following a workplace-related medical incident, while another worker died from a workplace-related suicide. Radford said 20 work-related road deaths is a sobering reminder that employers have a duty to protect all their workers, no matter where they are employed.
“It doesn’t matter if workers are on a construction site, at the farm, in an office or on the road — health and safety should travel with them wherever they are working,” Radford said.
As of 1 July 2020, the criteria for defining a workplace fatality was expanded to include deaths from work-related transport incidents, disease, criminal acts, and medical or suicide incidents, to ensure every workplace death is recognised and every family gets the support they deserve.
WorkSafe Victoria recorded 12 deaths in the public administration and safety industry in 2020, which was the most dangerous industry in the state. This included the deaths of four police officers killed on the Eastern Freeway in April and five emergency services personnel who died from the effects of diseases contracted at work.
Other dangerous industries included manufacturing and transport, postal and warehousing (10 deaths respectively); agriculture, forestry and fishing; and construction (nine deaths respectively). The most dangerous occupation was truck driving, after nine workers died in 2020, a decrease from 13 in 2019.
“Employers must ensure they implement systems of work to manage fatigue, ensure drivers are properly trained and licensed, and that vehicles are maintained in a safe condition,” Radford said.
Thirty deaths involved moving vehicles and heavy machinery, which were the most dangerous hazards in workplaces.
“It is unacceptable for so many deaths to involve trucks, machinery and mobile plant when the risks and how to control them are well known for these hazards. Slow down, check your systems of work and make sure you are doing everything possible to eliminate or manage these risks because the cost of not doing so can be a life,” Radford said.
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