Victorian WorkSafe Awards raise eyebrows and questions

Last week, WorkSafe Victoria held its 2011 Work Safe Awards night.  The host was Shane Jacobson, probably most well-known for his film Kenny.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that WorkSafe’s Executive Director, Ian Forsythe, was approached by an attendee on the evening complaining about the inappropriateness of some of Jacobson’s jokes and comments.

WorkSafe Victoria has been contacted for clarification of this complaint but as an attendee oneself, there were several times that laughter was subdued and eyebrows raised, particularly with one dubious homosexual reference and a joke about wives and guns.


A further, more general, concern was expressed to SafetyAtWorkBlog on the night about the awarding of one award to a person who is contracted by WorkSafe to promote OHS in rural areas.  The concern raises the issue again about the benefits of having a transparent judging criteria, or judging process, for safety awards.

Workcover NSW has previously published the judging criteria for its awards and continues to provide some details of the judging process.  SafeWorkSA has its judging criteria in its Call for Entries. WorkSafe Victoria does not provide any of this information on its awards website.

The publication of this type of criteria also helps people to understand the worthiness of award winners.  For instance, the Best Work Health and Safety Management System must meet the following criteria in South Australia:

  1. “How clearly does the system achieve a demonstrated commitment to workplace health and safety?
  2. To what extent was the integrated approach developed in consultation with workplace parties and, where appropriate, with outside organisations?
  3. How well is the approach integrated into the overall operations of the company?
  4. Has there been a demonstrated improvement in health and safety in the workplace as a result of the integrated approach?
  5. How much potential is there for the system to have broader application across other workplaces and industry?
  6. Please provide evidence of your organisation’s systems approach by including in your submission:
  • an external audit report conducted within the previous two years
  • evidence of control measures in place claims or incident/injury data for at least the previous 12 months
  • evidence of OHS reporting and consultation any other evidence to show a systems based approach.”
Award Changes

WorkSafe Victoria radically changed the awards process for 2011 by establishing monthly “champions” and encouraging online voting.  This change has, apparently, increased the number of award nominations considerably.

Significantly WorkSafe has incorporated its Return-To-Work awards into the 2011 Work Safe awards.  It was clear that the expanded awards categories for this evening will take some getting used to.  Many of the OHS award winners were noisy during the RTW section that came after.  WorkSafe will need to consider mixing up the order of the awards next year.

The expansion also meant that the evening needed to operate at a fast pace.  WorkSafe has cut down on the number of videos of finalists so that now only the videos of the winners are shown on the night.  The length of speeches were monitored and the technical showmanship of boom cameras zooming across the room as the winners approach was missing.  Thankfully the evening did not end with a band and dancing.

This need to tightly manage the evening should have been balanced by the provision of a large amount of background material to attendees.  Some States provide a detailed booklet of not only the award finalists but also of the awards process.  Here was an opportunity to increased the significance of each award finalist by detailing the rigour of the selection process.

Also, given that this year was the first year of a changed award nomination process, a booklet could have explained the changes to the attendees and established the booklet as an important reference tool.


It is acknowledged that hard copy publishing can be expensive but not in the context of the calibre of the award night attendees.  Other than for the tables of finalists, the Work Safe Awards night has become an important opportunity for networking.  Prominent WorkSafe executives attend.  Senior executives of many companies and government departments attend and not only those with a direct safety role (although with the increasing OHS duties on officers, expect to see more of them attending next year).

However, networking needs to be managed very carefully or an event can quickly decline to become little more than an occasion where every safety spruiker will scan the seating list and pounce on opportunities distributing a handful of business cards.  If the spruikers start appearing, the executive attendance will begin to decline and the event will lose its relevance.

Winners and Finalists

The finalists and winners of WorkSafe Awards are all very high quality and reading the profiles and (soon) viewing the finalist videos on the Work Safe Awards website is highly recommended.  It was refreshing to see shorter lists of finalists and to not have a parade of solutions that have already been seen on invention-related television shows.

The revised Work Safe Awards process needs to be thoroughly and independently analysed before the strategy is considered for implementation in other jurisdictions or on a national level.  It is unclear if such analysis is planned beyond the type of market research that WorkSafe Victoria regularly conducts.

The award process in Victoria would benefit greatly from increased transparency and careful protocols for future award night hosts.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia
Categories business, government, OHS, safety, Uncategorized, WorkSafeTags , , , ,

One thought on “Victorian WorkSafe Awards raise eyebrows and questions”

  1. These awards are a joke. A few years ago I was told by a WorkSafe Victoria executive that I would not receive an award because my invention was in conflict with an inferior product they were peddling. That\’s OK I went and got rich from my idea instead. Also part of the process is to sit in front of a workplace inspector and be interviewed. Why not have industry leaders involved who at least would have half a clue of a good idea if they saw one? The idea may not win an award but it may get picked up by an industry and implemented; may just save a life…………..if that\’s the whole idea of these awards?


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