With the Victorian Government amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, to provide for the criminal offence of industrial manslaughter, it is imperative that organisations are making workplace health and safety a priority. Utilities such as Melbourne Water are looking at new and innovative strategies that encourage safe work practices — for employees and the rest of the industry.

An industrial manslaughter offence attaches criminal responsibility to negligent conduct causing death — of a worker, supplier, contractor, routine maintenance worker, site visitor or passer-by, customer, neighbour or member of the public — by an employer, director or officer of the employer. The penalties for such an offence are significant, with a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for person offenders and a $16 million fine for corporate offenders.

These changes to legislation highlight that it is more important than ever for organisations to ensure they are implementing, updating and maintaining safe work practices. Melbourne Water is one organisation that exemplifies a commitment to occupational health and safety, and has been recognised at Victoria’s WorkSafe Awards for the past two years running.

In 2017, the water authority received the award for Best Solution to a Specific Workplace Health and Safety Issue for its work with bespoke virtual reality programs in identifying hazards early in asset design. The organisation was again recognised in 2018, placing as a finalist in two award categories, Best OHS Achievement and Best Solution to a Specific Workplace Health and Safety Issue.

These accolades recognise Melbourne Water’s implementation of innovative and coordinated safety approaches to working with all construction partners. David Tregoweth, General Manager of Safety at Melbourne Water, said every person could make a contribution to health and safety.

“We take the safety of our people very seriously, which is why we continue to look for ways to promote a collaborative approach to safety,” Mr Tregoweth said.

“For us, safety is about prevention. Being prevention-led can stop incidents and injuries from occurring in the first place, which is ultimately our real goal.”

Melbourne Water has a significant program of capital infrastructure works which support its delivery of water and sewerage services to Melbourne.

“Our operational teams and contractors oversee major infrastructure projects every day of the week so it’s critical that we are all on the same page when it comes to safety, no matter where the work is taking place,” Mr Tregoweth said.

In May 2018, Melbourne Water also joined forces with the Water Industry Operators of Australia (WIOA) to develop the Water Industry Safety Event (WISE). This initiative forms part of Melbourne Water’s generative safety strategy, which is focused on looking for ways to lead safety and create a vibrant health and safety community internally as well as externally.

The second annual WISE event will take place on 9 October at the Batman Royale in Coburg, Melbourne, and is a fantastic opportunity for water industry professionals to share experiences and learn from one another to improve the safety in the water industry. Register at https://wioa.org.au/nevent/wise-2019/.

A safety checklist for employers

  • Review OHS management systems: a comprehensive review of the efficacy of OHS management systems and the allocation of appropriate responsibility for the performance of those systems should be undertaken
  • Review OHS leadership and culture: Employers need to ensure that any negligent conduct of an employee is not authorised or permitted, through its overall culture or organisational standards
  • Due diligence for directors and officers: Those in positions of leadership need to be proactive and diligent in ensuring appropriate health and safety systems, procedures and processes are in place
  • Review insurance and risk allocation: Employers needs to consider their insurance arrangements for their organisation and their officers. If an employer shares control of a workplace with other duty holders consideration has to be undertaken to risk allocation

Siobhan Day is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and Pump Industry magazine, and has been part of the team since early 2019. With a background in management in the non-profit sector, Siobhan has extensive experience in communications, professional writing and client management. She holds a Bachelor of Business and Communications and is currently completing a postgraduate degree.

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