Winners named for distinguished WorkSafe Awards

WorkSafe Victoria has recognised the outstanding workplace health and safety efforts of nine workers and employers at its annual awards gala on Thursday night.


The event at Melbourne Town Hall celebrated the achievements of injured workers who overcame barriers preventing them returning to work, and individuals and organisations that went above and beyond to ensure safety in the workplace.

A number of outstanding safety initiatives and devices were recognised in 2019, such as plumbing company Reece Group's custom-built hoist for lifting hot water systems that weigh up to 180kg.

Other winners included health and safety representatives Sally Collier-Clarke and Sara Jorgensen, who negotiated increased staff levels for antenatal, postnatal units and birthing suites for night shift at Bendigo Hospital.

Diesel mechanic Alex McCrae was awarded the Return to Work Achievement Award for his effort to get back on the job.

Mr McCrae successfully returned to work with H.I.M Spares at Dandenong, after severe bullying left him with psychological injuries and unable to work for his former employer.

In total there were 26 finalists for the 2019 WorkSafe Awards, chosen from 219 nominees across the nine categories.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Clare Amies said the winners had shown dedication to reducing the impacts that workplace injuries had on Victorians.

"Whether it is their sheer determination to return to work or absolute commitment to preventing injuries, the 2019 WorkSafe Awards winners have gone to incredible lengths to make their workplaces healthier and safer," Ms Amies said.

"They are a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work and resolve to overcome the challenges to health and safety across a wide range of Victorian industries."

"I would like to congratulate every finalist who can be proud of the difference they have made to the lives of Victorian workers."

The winners of the 2019 WorkSafe Awards are:

Leading Return to Work Practice by an Employer

Baw Baw Shire Council

In 2018, the Baw Baw Shire Council updated its early intervention and supported work programs to provide better immediate assistance to staff for work and non-work related injuries. This includes 10 days of lost time paid at their full salary and $500 for medical expenses, supporting injured staff through the 28-day waiting period of a WorkCover claim. Currently, 100 per cent of injury management cases are for non-work injuries, demonstrating the council's commitment to employees.

Return to Work Coordinator Excellence

Winnie Tjong, Northern Health

Winnie Tjong is driven to make the return to work process easier for injured employees at Northern Health. As the return to work coordinator, Winnie has approached insurance agent Xchanging with ideas for expediting invoicing and payments so workers experience less impact on their financial wellbeing while recovering. She has also implemented an injury assist phone service, onsite physiotherapy and a job demands checklist for GPs.

Worker Return to Work Achievement

Alex McCrae, H.I.M Spares

After being forced to leave his position as a diesel mechanic following years of bullying and harassment, Alex McCrae was determined to return to work as soon as possible. This included undertaking numerous interviews and training. Despite being knocked back following interviews Alex persisted and was eventually able to secure work at H.I.M Spares.

Best Solution to Manual Handling Issue

Reece Group – Ute Side Lifter

Reece developed the Ute Side Lifter to remove the need to manually handle hot water units weighing up to 180kg, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Instead of lifting the units in and out of ute trays by hand, the company now has a custom device made that is attached to vehicles to assist with lifting heavy items.

Best Solution to Specific Workplace Health and Safety Issue

Belle Banne Conveyor Services

Employees at Belle Banne realised that 80 per cent of injuries at their workplace were lacerations caused by using knives to splice conveyor belts or repair damaged sections of rubber. In response, the company developed a knifeless splice technique. This involved identifying 10 actions that required a knife and implementing an alternative method for doing each task. Belle Banne has not had a knife injury since.

Health and Safety Invention of the Year

Sigmatec Pty Ltd

Sigmatec developed the Poster Rise in order to reduce the need for retail workers to use ladders while installing posters at height in store. The Poster Rise allows employees to safely install posters at height via remote control, without their feet leaving the ground.

Health and Safety Representative of the Year

Sally Collier-Clarke & Sara Jorgensen

Sally Collier-Clarke and Sara Jorgensen have represented their colleagues on health and safety matters at Bendigo Health since 2018. They successfully campaigned to have the number of staff on the ward during night shifts increased from seven to eight nurses and always work to ensure their colleagues can provide a high level of clinical care, without risking their health and safety.

OHS Leadership, Achievement Award

St John of God Health Care, Mark Keating

As acting supply operations manager, Mark Keating has maintained a consistent approach to safety and gained the respect and trust of his warehouse team. He leads team education on safety through weekly meetings and consultation, empowering workers to speak up to ensure all tasks are performed safely.

Commitment to Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing


This year disability service provider Scope rolled out its ScopeSAFE health and safety system across four divisions, 226 locations and 2500 employees. It has ensured positive employee engagement, improved manual handling techniques, improved occupational violence and aggression support and increased early intervention on safety issues.