George Weston Foods (GWF) has pulled out all the stops to improve safety following an incident that rocked its Castlemaine manufacturing plant in regional Victoria several years ago. 

When a worker was badly injured moving heavy equipment, the food manufacturer — which produces a range of small goods including bacon, ham and salami — was determined to learn from its mistakes and do all it could to minimise the risk of a serious accident from happening again. 

Spearheading their initiatives is a video safety training program for La Trobe University Bendigo’s engineering students covering the following subjects:  

  • Creating a safety culture
  • Safety legislation overview
  • Safety in design
  • Measuring safety and compliance
  • Ergonomics in the office and in the field and 
  • Lifting and carrying manual handling.

An assessment module which has been shared with GWF engineering teams supports student learning and demonstrates student competency of the training delivered. 

“It means there is a generation of engineering students who are learning from the incident we had,” HSSE Manager Rachel Howard said. 

“It’s not so much regulatory training but solid, pragmatic advice.” 

With 1200 employees and 6.5 acres of manufacturing capability under one roof, the Castlemaine plant is one of the biggest employers in the area. 

“After the incident, we sat down with our maintenance teams and asked what their No.1 safety priority was,” Ms Howard said. 

“Improving access to the roof space which houses equipment was their answer. Both old and new parts of the plant have improved walkways and access points, and further lifting and transfer equipment has been installed.   

“Risks associated with interacting with our equipment — manual handling, ergonomics and gravity — are big contributors to the incidents we have had on site with our maintenance teams and better access to the roof spaces makes traversing and working up there easier and safer.” 

Significant changes to workplace practices have emerged at the plant. 

GWF uses the Dupont Safety Leadership program on site. When creating safety plans, leaders are asked to commit to the company’s safety culture and to engage regularly with their teams on safety improvements and roadblocks. 

"It's not just the safety team and those who have people reporting to them who have safety responsibility," Ms Howard said.

"It's everyone: employees, shift workers and contractors. Engaging with all our employees is critical to our success.  

“There are no roadblocks to safety here. The attitude is: ‘Let’s get on and do it; we need to do it. 

“It’s been a consultative process all the way through.” 

For more information about GWF’s video safety training program, please reach out to Chloe Irwin or click here

Visit our Health & Safety Resource Centre to find out how Ai Group can support your WHS needs. 


Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.