Narelle Beer at 2023 Truckers’ Memorial

Note: this is an AI-generated transcript of Dr Beer’s speech, slightly edited.

MC  00:04

It is now my pleasure to welcome our keynote speaker this afternoon, to introduce Dr. Narelle Beer, the Executive Director of Health and Safety at WorkSafe Victoria.

Narelle Beer  00:23

Afternoon, everyone, it’s an honour to be here with you today in Alexandra at the annual truck drivers Memorial. I too would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet here today and pay my respects to the elders past and present. I’d like to acknowledge the 10s and 1000s of years of connection to country and culture and customs. And I’d like to extend any respect to the First Nations elders that also might be here.

Narelle Beer  00:48

It pains me that we need to have days like today. Because it means that people are continually tragically needlessly dying because or due to their work. And let me offer my sincere condolences to every Victorian family who has lost a loved one as a result of a transport-related incident. And to those families that are here today. I’m deeply sorry for your loss. Your loved ones will never be forgotten. And like all of you here today, I’m profoundly moved by the significance of this day and the heartbreaking fact that today we’re adding more names to the memorial board. It both angers and saddens me that people are still losing their life at work in the transport sector. No task, no deadline, no profit margin. No productivity gain is worth risking a life. It just shouldn’t happen. And we know that the transport industry is the lifeblood of our community, of our economy. And without it, we know Victoria would grind to a halt. But we also acknowledge that the industry operates in some of the most challenging and dangerous workplaces in Victoria. Since the first of July, in 2018, there’s been 54 deaths in the transport industry. That accounts for 15% of all Victorian workplace deaths. 43 lives that were lost were lost where there was a truck involved. The other 13 relate to truck drivers who lost their lives, loading or unloading or doing like activities. The average age of each life lost was just 49, people in the prime of their life. That’s just far too many workplaces. Too many families, too many communities torn apart by deaths that should never have occurred. And every one of these people leaves behind the loved ones, people who mourn their loss and today, we mourn them together.

Narelle Beer  03:25

We also make a solemn promise to stand beside them. And WorkSafe will continue to do everything in our power to make a real and meaningful difference to prevent further loss of life or serious injuries at or due to work. Because, quite simply, there is no such thing as unavoidable workplace harm. The unexpectedly high numbers of fatalities and serious injury that’s occurring in the transport sector. WorkSafe has just launched a very specific fatality prevention strategy approach to the transport industry. And that’s going to focus on the most prevalent causes of both fatalities and serious injuries, as well as the circumstances where they’re most likely to occur. We’ll work with every employer we can, and even those that don’t want to, who have a heavy vehicle fleet to enable them to drive systematic change to safety in their workplace and where necessary, will undertake regional blitzes and include our partners in that multi-agency approach and will also maintain presence with those employers who have been prosecuted to ensure that they continue to facilitate improvements in the health and safety aspect that we expect right across the industry.

Narelle Beer  04:55

We want to look at the high-risk activities of those engaging and operating heavy vehicles, both on the road, with freight, with public transport, in manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, construction, as well as Earth Resources. And we will tackle fatigue. We recently funded some research to understand and identify fatigue in the heavy vehicle industry particularly with drivers and the results were alarming. The findings of that research have led to a cohort of drivers who were involved taking control of their own fatigue management and it is small but it is a significant step forward in safety. We will motivate transport employers and employees to prioritize health and safety because nothing, nothing is more important and will ensure that they have the knowledge the tools and the support measures in place to create safer workplaces. Significantly by supporting truck drivers in their effort to make the workplace safer, we’re also helped making the road safer and the rest of the community safer.

Narelle Beer  06:19

But today’s not just about looking ahead. Today is about reflection and remembrance. It’s about mourning, but it’s also about celebrating the lives of those loved ones who you’ve lost. Today’s an incredibly difficult day. But it also must strengthen our resolve to simply do better, to be better, to make others look after those that we love at work. To those families who are here today who have lost loved ones, I thank you for your courage in attending this event, for showing such grace and your ability in the face of unimaginable grief. To properly honour the memory of your loved ones, we need every industry, every employer, and everyone here to channel our collective passion, rage, unwavering determination and every ounce of our energy towards prevention until there’s no workplace deaths across the transport industry in Victoria. We owe that to those who have lost their lives. We owe that to families, to the communities who are left behind and mourn their loss. We will add that to their memory. Thank you

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