The Westfield and Market Square shopping centres and businesses in Geelong will be inspected at the end of next month to check that health and safety hazards are being controlled and return-to-work obligations for injured workers are being met.

WorkSafe’s Ross Pilkington said although some people would think a month was a lot of notice, safety management was often juggled among a range of business needs.

“We should be able to come in, find no problems, or only minor ones, and then move on, but unfortunately many people do not take advantage of the warning given and then face a lengthy visit.

“With a busy period coming up, getting on top of safety now should mean there will be few problems for the inspectors to deal with.”  

Pilkington said modern shopping centres were self-contained suburbs with retail, entertainment, commercial kitchens, construction sites and warehousing under one roof, potentially creating significant safety issues for workers and the public.

“Many of these businesses will hire casual workers for Christmas. These are often younger and less experienced people who might be less likely to ask questions about safety.

“As a result, they are more likely to end up in an emergency department from being hurt at work.”

More than 900 young workers and a total of 5179 people were hurt at work in the City of Greater Geelong in the past five years, with treatment and rehabilitation costs exceeding $75 million.

“Businesses need safe systems of work in place and must ensure young workers are properly trained and supervised at all times.

“Not addressing safety issues can have serious human and commercial consequences, including the potential for prosecution.”

Inspectors will be checking for a range of hazards including electrical and fire safety, chemical use and storage, emergency escape routes, the security of storage racking, noise, licensing for forklifts and other plant, working at heights and manual handling issues.

WorkSafe has previously conducted similar campaigns at Chadstone, Southland, Northland and Highpoint shopping centres.