Let's put 2021 safely behind us

Victorian employers and workers are being urged to slow down and put safety first in the lead up to the holidays.


It's been another tough year for Victorians, and many are eager to celebrate the end of it. But the holiday excitement is never an excuse to rush work or neglect safety regulations, which too often leads to workplace tragedy.

Whether it’s the construction industry seeking to finish jobs before the Christmas shutdown, or the manufacturing sector swamped with last-minute orders, the end of the year makes for a busy and potentially dangerous time at work.

From 2018 to 2020, 24 people lost their lives in workplace incidents in the final two months of the year.

A WorkSafe campaign entitled 'Let's Put 2021 Safely Behind Us' aims to ensure health and safety is front-of-mind this holiday season.

Featuring in print, online and radio advertising, the campaign encourages employers to think about what systems and procedures are in place to protect workers and ensure they enter the New Year safely.

The retail and manufacturing sectors are set to experience a hectic Christmas shopping period following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and an influx of new staff to help meet demand.

Employers are being urged to ensure both new and longstanding staff are adequately trained or refreshed on how to perform their job safely, especially after emerging from lockdown.

Safe retail and manufacturing workplaces are ones that have adequate COVID-19 protocols and safe systems of work to avoid or reduce common risks such as injuries from dangerous machinery and equipment, strain from repetitive tasks, slips and trips, and injuries from lifting heavy loads.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer also stressed the importance of mentally healthy workplaces.

A positive work environment is particularly important during the festive season, where staff may be feeling overwhelmed by a surge in consumer demand and increased workloads."

Work-related stress caused by factors such as increased work pressure, fatigue, bullying, abusive customers or harassment can have serious psychological and physical impacts.

"It is crucial employers maintain a supportive workplace, especially during the holiday season. This includes ensuring employees have a safe workload, are listened to and treated with respect," Dr Beer said.

It has also been a challenging year for the construction industry. The two-week shutdown across Melbourne has resulted in many building projects falling behind schedule.

While there's a big push to get renovations and new builds completed by Christmas, it is never okay to skip safety measures.

"Cutting corners and taking safety shortcuts can be fatal," Dr Beer said. "Don’t let these holidays turn to tragedy because of a rush to complete work before Christmas."

There have been 43 workplace deaths in construction since 2018. The main causes of these deaths include falls from height, electrocution, vehicle accidents and being hit by falling or moving objects.

WorkSafe's campaign aims to remind workers that more important than rushing through the pre-Christmas work schedule is making it to the holidays safe and well.

"Slow down, take your time, and talk about health and safety with your workmates to ensure everyone can have a well-earned Christmas and a happy and safe New Year," Dr Beer said.