BALLARAT has been rocked by the fourth workplace death in just over 18 months, coming on the same day a new industrial manslaughter bill was introduced into Victoria's parliament.
As Attorney-General Jill Hennessy was announcing the new laws - which if enacted will see employers found guilty of workplace safety negligence, resulting in the death of a worker, fined up to $16.5 million and face up to 20 years in a jail - another tragedy was unfolding in the same suburb where two men lost their lives in March last year.
A 50-year-old Alfredton man died when he became trapped in a machine at an industrial shed in Williamson Street, Delacombe, about 10.30am.
Once the man was released from the machine, paramedics spent 30 minutes trying to revive him but he died at the scene.
At the same time, the families of the two men killed in a Delacombe trench collapse were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Ms Hennessy as she announced the bill would be introduced into parliament.
For Lana Cormie, the wife of Charlie Howkins who died in Delacombe, the memories came flooding back.
"It's heartbreaking to hear about things happening in Ballarat," Dr Cormie said. "Your heart really goes out to those families that are getting the news today. I truly hope they are getting support they need around them."
"It does highlight the urgency of the situation in getting these law through and seeing some significant change across all industries."
Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Argall said the Alfredton man became trapped in a machine while working and was discovered by two colleagues after they were alerted to an alarm.
"When the ambulance and fire brigade arrived they found the man trapped.
"Once they freed the man they tried to resuscitate him but unfortunately their best efforts couldn't revive the male and he was pronounced deceased here in the factory."
"Police and WorkSafe are now conducting an investigation for the coroner. Part of that will be to determine whether there was some sort of fault with the machinery, whether there was some sort of medical episode," Senior Sergeant Argall said.
"A report will be prepared for the coroner in due course."
Ms Hennessy said as many as 30 people were killed in workplaces across Victoria every year.
The offence will fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and will apply to employers, self-employed people and 'officers' of the employers.
The legislation will also apply when an employer's negligent conduct causes the death of a member of the public - ensuring that all Victorians are safe in, and around workplaces.
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WorkSafe Victoria will investigate the new offence using their powers under the OHS Act to ensure employers can be prosecuted - making clear that putting people's lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated.
Ms Hennessy said nobody should die at work.
"All workers deserve a safe workplace and the proposed laws send a clear message to employers that putting people's lives at risk in the workplace will not be tolerated."
"I cannot begin to imagine the pain felt by the families who have lost a loved one at work."
Dr Cormie said it was a bitter-sweet day for all families of workers killed on the job.
"For families today, we were really pleased to see the government is listening, and it really comes down to the fact that there needs to be a change within companies in Victoria and Australia that they start to make work safety a priority," she said.
"Laws like these will hold those accountable for their actions or inactions which may lead to fatality and serious injury.
"We have laws accountable, for areas of our public life, workplaces need to be held up to the same standards."
The harsh penalties for employers would also apply over the suicide deaths of their workers as the legislation will cover deaths caused by mental injuries, including trauma from bullying or other forms of abuse, sustained on the job as well as accidents and illnesses caused by unsafe workplaces.
Brodie's Law was introduced in 2011 to prevent employees bullying one another following the death of waitress Brodie Panlock, who died by suicide after ongoing harassment at work.
Campaign organiser for Victorian Trades Hall Council in the western region Bill McCabe said Tuesday's incident was yet another tragedy.
"Our thoughts are with this worker's family, friends and workmates," Mr McCabe said.
"This will hit the community. Every single death in the workplace is avoidable. That is why we are strongly supporting the changes to workplace safety laws announced today, and we call upon employers to make the changes necessary to enforce these laws.
"Employers must take workplace safety seriously."
WorkSafe said it was investigating Tuesday's incident.
"It is believed the man in his 50s was caught in the machinery this morning," a statement said.
"The death brings the number of workplace fatalities to 20, compared to 21 at the same time last year."
But the drafting of the new laws have already run into strong opposition, namely from the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), which claims it will have a "disproportional and cruel impact on family farms and businesses".
"Family farms are unique businesses because farmers are often both the employers and the employees. The State Government must provide an exemption for farm business owners in the event of an immediate family member dying in the workplace, just as they have exempted other employees," VFF vice-president Emma Germano said.
"Every farm accident is tragic. It is usually a close loved one we lose. While mourning the loss of a family member, there is now a risk farmers will be further punished with a long, arduous and expensive legal process that may traumatize grieving families and result in 20 years imprisonment.
"WorkSafe does not have the experience, skills or resources to investigate such a serious criminal charge as manslaughter.
"Victoria Police is the only appropriate and properly equipped body to investigate such a serious offence."
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