Barwon south west region workplace incident concern as state’s deadliest industries uncovered

A refinery worker who had a close call has made an urgent plea to employees to ensure employers are protecting their safety so they don’t risk becoming a fatality statistic.

Employers cutting corners on safety are on notice after six workplace deaths this year, and more than 40 in 2021, including nine in the Barwon southwest region.

WorkSafe data shows manufacturing was the deadliest industry in 2021 with 14 deaths, followed by construction with 13.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector had nine deaths — for a second year a in a row.

Vehicles and machinery were again the most dangerous hazards in Victorian workplaces after they were involved in 21 fatalities last year.

About three people a day in the City of Greater Geelong claimed compensation last year for workplace injuries, taking the region’s tally to more than 1000.

Refinery worker Ryan Collins who needed more than 50 stitches in his face after an angle grinder kicked back urged people to speak up if they felt unsafe at work.

“If I could turn back time I would say ‘I am not going to use a nine-inch angle grinder to cut concrete fireproofing’ with a face mask that wasn’t adequate,” Mr Collins, who was injured about 20 years ago, said.

“I had internal and external stitches from the corner of my mouth up to my ear.

“I was fairly young and hadn’t been in the industry that long.

“It was the way they had always done it but I questioned it and said ‘do we really need to do it’ and I was told ‘yes’.

“Just because something has been done for a certain amount of time in a certain way, there could be a better way to do things.”

WorkSafe data shows 43 people died after workplace incidents in 2021 while 14 died as a result of a disease contracted at work.

Males made up 63 of 66 people that died from workplace-related incidents, disease, medical issues or a criminal act.

WorkSafe chief executive Colin Radford said workplaces needed to regularly assess risks, and plan how to eliminate or manage them.

“There is simply no excuse for cutting corners when it comes to workplace safety,” Mr Radford said.

“Hundreds of Victorians have just spent their first festive season without a loved one by their side because of a workplace death.

“Many others are themselves dealing with the pain and suffering from serious and often life-changing injuries suffered at work.”

Mr Radford said manufacturing, construction and agricultural workplaces would be targeted by inspectors, who made more than 39,000 visits last year.

“It’s simply unacceptable that we are seeing the same industries feature prominently in workplace deaths and serious injuries year after year.”

In 2021 there were nine workplace deaths across the Barwon southwest region; Colac Otway Shire (3), Corangamite Shire (2), and Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moyne, Warrnambool (1 each).

Workplace deaths fell from 73 in 2020, and WorkSafe accepted 23,385 injury claims in 2021, up from 22,257 in 2020.

Source: Geelong Advertiser

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