WorkSafe inspectors will crack down on Bendigo businesses that place workers at risk by failing to address health and safety issues as part of a week long blitz, beginning Monday.

About 200 businesses will receive a visit by a WorkSafe inspector as part of the Safe Towns campaign which involves a team of inspectors visiting a regional area to check on health and safety compliance and return to work laws.

WorkSafe’s operations General Manager, Lisa Sturzenegger, said inspectors would target businesses that have never before been visited as well as those with previous injury claims.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to make changes sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until a WorkSafe inspector arrives, or a serious incident to address health and safety matters,” she said.

Almost 2370 injuries were reported to WorkSafe from the Bendigo region over the past five financial years, with treatment and rehabilitation costs exceeding $41 million.

More than half of these claims came from the health care and social assistance, manufacturing and construction industries.

“We constantly come across cases where companies are fined thousands of dollars for not addressing safety matters such as allowing workers to operate faulty machinery, not properly separating forklifts from pedestrians and other poor management of safety issues.“

“Getting on top of health and safety issues in the workplace is good for business, good for morale and ensures workers return home safely at the end of the day.”

“We also find that 60 per cent of all Victorian workplace injuries are a result of dangerous manual handling practices. Businesses may not even be aware that their existing work methods put a strain on their workers. “

“We encourage businesses to look at their workplaces from a fresh perspective and to find new ways to address basic issues.”

Bendigo will be the second regional area this financial year to receive a visit as part of the Safe Towns Campaign.

The first was Echuca in August last year. Inspectors visited 197 small businesses and issued 198 improvement notices.

More visits will take place in South Geelong/Breakwater, Ballarat and Traralgon in coming months.

In the 2010/2011 financial year, WorkSafe inspectors visited 1546 small businesses across 13 regional and suburban areas as part of the Safe Towns/Safer Work Zones Campaign.

They issued 2118 improvement notices for health and safety and accident compensation breaches.

Manual handling, damaged storage racking, unsafe scaffolding, inappropriate storage of dangerous goods, insufficient return to work plans for injured workers and poor forklift traffic management were among the issues identified during the campaign.

For further information on how to make your workplace safe, please visit: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au