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Vic workplaces urged to do more after horror 2016

12 January, 2017

Victorian workplaces must do more in 2017 to prioritise safety following a horror year in which 26 people lost their lives at work.

The warning from WorkSafe Victoria follows the worst year for fatalities since 2009. 

Of the 26 fatalities last year:

  • The youngest was 21 and the oldest was 94
  • 23 were men
  • 8 occurred in Melbourne and 18 were in regional Victoria
  • Eight were in agriculture and seven were in construction
  • Five involved tractors, four were caused by falling from height and three were electrocutions

WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, described the number of workplace fatalities in 2016 as "horrific".

"Tragically, 26 Victorian workers did not make it home safely at the end of the day and their families didn't get to celebrate Christmas and New Years with their loved one," Williams said.

"Twenty-six fatalities in a single year is horrific. It can never be acceptable that any worker in Victoria dies just because they are doing their job."

Williams said inspectors made more than 46,000 visits to workplaces across the state last year and would continue to target high-risk sectors in 2017. This will include the agriculture and construction sectors, which last year accounted for almost 58 per cent of fatalities.

But she said occupational health and safety laws were clear that keeping workers safe was the responsibility of every Victorian employer.

"While workers have a role to play in keeping themselves and others safe, the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of employers," Williams said.

"The consequences of failing to prioritise safety can be catastrophic. As well as the devastation suffered by families and friends, a workplace fatality has an enormous impact on colleagues and, ultimately, the business itself as it is the employer who will face the courts should there be a serious incident."

Williams said the safest workplaces were those where employers and employees discussed - and acted upon - safety issues as part of their daily tasks.

"As Victorians begin a new working year, every employer and employee must do everything they can to keep their workplace safe," Williams said.

"Employers need to constantly reassess the work their employees are undertaking to ensure what they are doing and how they are doing it is safe. Employees need to do the same thing, and speak up if they see something that concerns them.

"If everyone does this, together we can strive to make 2017 a fatality-free year."

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