Victorian manufacturers grapple with $16M in fines for safety breaches

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Victorian employers and manufacturers are reeling from over $16 million in fines, as revealed by WorkSafe Victoria’s 153 successful health and safety prosecutions in 2023.

The fines, imposed for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Dangerous Goods Act, included three separate seven-figure penalties and 25 additional prosecutions resulting in fines exceeding $100,000.

Falls from height, a major contributor to workplace fatalities in Victoria, remained a focal point, with 39 prosecutions and fines amounting to almost $2 million, WorkSafe reported in a news release.

Unsafe machinery, inadequate guarding, and risks of being crushed or caught between objects led to 25, 15, and 13 prosecutions, respectively.

Powered mobile plant offences, involving equipment like forklifts, were also addressed with 13 prosecutions.

Manufacturing and construction industries bore the brunt of the prosecutions, with 38 and 52 cases, respectively.

Meanwhile, transport, postal, and warehousing saw 11 prosecutions, while wholesale trade accounted for 10.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer emphasised the ongoing commitment to targeting high-risk workplaces.

Dr Beer stressed the importance of a preventative approach, stating, “The safest places to work are those where employers accept that injuries and fatalities are preventable, and priority is placed on doing what they can to protect their people.”

WorkSafe said it aims to use every enforcement tool available to hold employers accountable for compromising the health and safety of their workforce.

Tragically, 17 of the successful prosecutions were linked to workplace fatalities, resulting in fines totalling $6.3 million.

Beyond physical safety, multiple duty holders faced prosecution for workplace bullying and sexual harassment, particularly affecting young and vulnerable workers.

Dr Beer highlighted the need for robust systems and processes to identify, assess, and respond to hazards affecting both physical and mental health.

Adequate training, supervision, and fostering a culture where workers feel comfortable expressing safety concerns are essential components of a safe working environment.

In addition to the court outcomes, WorkSafe accepted seven enforceable undertakings in 2023, with duty holders committing $1.2 million to enhance workplace health and safety knowledge and outcomes across various industries.

Some major prosecutions included Bradbury Industrial Services Pty Ltd, Dennis Jones Engineering Pty Ltd, Energy Australia Yallourn Pty Ltd, Underwater Inspection Services, and Supagas Pty Ltd, each facing substantial fines for incidents ranging from explosions and fires to life-changing injuries and fatalities.