The awards celebrated those who went above and beyond to improve workplace health and safety, and the resilience of injured workers who overcame obstacles to make a successful return to work.
More than 320 people were in attendance as eight winners across seven categories received the prestigious honour, including health and safety representatives Adrian Lidsey and Christopher Ball, who were recognised for their outstanding work in representing their co-workers to create a smoke-free working environment.
The Return to Work Achievement award was presented to high voltage operator George Vagias for showing courage and returning to the workforce after suffering electric shocks that burned 60 per cent of his body. Since his return, he has dedicated his career to promoting workplace health and safety.
WorkSafe Chief Executive Officer Colin Radford said two new categories added to this year's awards honoured commitments to improving mental health in the workplace and to farm safety.
"Every year at WorkSafe mental injuries account for a greater share of our claims. Meanwhile farms remain one of the most dangerous places to work," Mr Radford said.
"These new categories highlight the need for improvement in these areas, and we hope these success stories encourage more workplaces to think about how they can take a prevention-led approach towards health and safety."
The Commitment to Prevention of Mental Injury in the Workplace honour was awarded to Western Health for encouraging its staff to prioritise their own safety in the face of violence and aggression through its 'Predict, Prevent, Priority: Safety Strategy'.
Aurora Dairies received the Commitment to Workplace Health and Safety on a Farm award for improving safety for quadbike operators by implementing low-cost technologies such as GPS tracking and geo-fencing across 25 farms.
A special commendation was also made to Gwynnyth Evans – a proud Murri woman – for her decades-long career dedicated to improving workplace health and safety. She was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Fighting for the passage of the OHS Act, representing countless workers through the compensation system, and demanding justice for students who participated in an unsafe clinical trial are just some of the reasons Ms Evans is viewed as a champion of health and safety by so many.
In total there were 23 finalists shortlisted for the 2021 WorkSafe Awards, chosen from more than 180 nominees.
Mr Radford congratulated every winner and finalist for their exceptional efforts in boosting workplace health and safety.
"We had such a strong pool of finalists, and all of them deserve to be applauded for their sheer dedication towards developing safer and healthier workplaces," Mr Radford said.
"The winners are an inspiration to workplaces across Victoria. They are prime examples of how businesses and individuals flourish when health and safety take centre stage."
2021 WorkSafe Awards winners
Health and Safety Representative of the Year
Adrian Lidsey and Christopher Ball – Crown Melbourne
Crown Casino had a legal exemption to allow smoking within parts of the workplace, which meant employees were exposed to the health risks associated with passive smoking. Christopher and Adrian dedicated their time to gathering health and safety concerns and meeting with senior management and government representatives to create a smoke-free workplace.
Ash Presser – URBNSURF
When URBNSURF set out to create Melbourne's first surf park, there weren’t any existing frameworks for identifying and monitoring OHS risks in the niche industry. Ash undertook extensive research and developed a six step process to launch a new industry safely.
Commitment to Prevention of Mental Injury in the Workplace
Western Health's new 'Predict, Prevent, Priority: Safety Strategy' aims to address unsafe cultural practices to reduce the incidence of workplace violence and aggression, along with the potential for psychological injury.
Commitment to Workplace Health and Safety on a Farm
Aurora Dairies used low-cost technology, including geo-fencing and GPS tracking, to improve safety for quadbike operators across 25 farms. Geo-fenced farms can identify terrain that posed a rollover risk, and the data is used to set speed limits.
Workplace Health and Safety Solution of the Year
AusNet Services – Aim Zero
A new app developed by AusNet Services uses geospatial data to alert staff via a smartwatch to nearby hazards while they work alone in the field. It also uses smartphone features such as fall detection and heart monitoring to alert managers to potential incidents.
Western Health (medihood) – McMonty Hood
Western Health developed an isolation hood that helps protect health care workers treating COVID-19 patients. The 'McMonty' by medihood is a reusable isolation hood that reduces aerosol and droplet contamination, allowing non-invasive ventilation of COVID-19 patients. The device is now being used across Australia, as well as in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Leading Return to Work Practice
Alida Kildey - Goulburn Valley Health
Goulburn Valley Health's approach to helping injured workers return to work focuses on treating 'the whole person'. By including the workers' home life and their community connections as part of the recovery program, Goulburn Valley Health supports workers to focus on what they can do.
Worker Return to Work Achievement
George Vagias – Melbourne Water Corporation
Thirteen years ago, high voltage operator George was electrocuted in a workplace incident. He suffered burns to 60 per cent of his body and was placed in an induced coma for 30 days. Six months later, George was back at work, but it wasn't an easy path. George has overcome many challenges, including the addictive nature of prescribed morphine-based pain medication. Since returning to work, he has dedicated his career to improving health and safety standards, and has actively pursued health and safety at Melbourne Water and in the broader industry.
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