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Safety first for award-winning Telarah business


Swietelsky Rail Australia is still in celebration mode after cleaning up the 2024 Hunter Safety Awards.

The Telarah-based enterprise not only captured the Best WHS Health and Wellbring (SME) accolade but backed up to secure the prestigious Gold Safety Helmet in the WHS Business of the Year category.

More than 300 passionate people came together to create an atmosphere that was dedicated to championing safety, innovation and WHS at the Newcastle Exhibition and Conference Centre (NEX) on Friday 15 March.

Managing director Anne Modderno couldn’t believe Swietelsky Rail Australia snared two awards at their first attempt.

“We pride ourselves on creating a workplace that is diverse, as well as an environment where all staff feel safe and supported,” she said.

“So, for that to be recognised on a level like this is incredible.

“Being safety-focused is one thing but celebrating it with so many like-minded individuals and other amazing Hunter businesses has just been outstanding.

“We’re looking forward to doing it all over again.”

Hunter Safety Awards founder Sarah-Jane Dunford, sponsor Doug Smith (University of Newcastle), PLUS ES safety manager Paul Olive and Women In Safety founder Alanna Ball.

Now in its eighth year, the Hunter Safety Awards recognise businesses and individuals across 12 different categories of health and safety.

“It was amazing to bring together diverse minds and organisations who were all dedicated to shaping the future of WHS in the region,” founder Sarah-Jane Dunford said.

“At this year’s awards we acknowledged not only achievements, but a shared commitment to pushing the boundaries of safety and fostering innovation.

“The Hunter is a hub of excellence in safety… and this event serves as a dynamic platform to honour those who lead the charge in redefining standards.

“It wasn’t just an award ceremony, it was a testament to the unwavering dedication that is moving us toward a safer, more innovative future.”

PLUS ES safety manager Paul Olive was named WHS Champion of the Year for 2024.

His mantra is “safety is managing risk through relationships”.

And, that refrain resonated with judges, as well as the fact his own team nominated him for this honour, saying “he is more than a manager, he’s a true leader”.

“I am honoured to have not only even been nominated for this award but to win as well is very overwhelming,” he said.

“Safety truly is a team effort, so this award is for the whole team at PLUS ES who are safety-oriented each day they go to work.

“If we look back to five years ago and I asked the people at the awards if they thought their workplaces were safe, most would have said yes.

“However, if I asked them today to reflect on the past, most would probably say they were not as safe as we thought.

“We are on a continuous journey of safety and I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock, executive general manager of people safety and environment Newcastle Airport Georgina Chalker and sponsor Michael Brookes (Gunnebo).
 (sponsor for the award)

Another winner Newcastle Airport is maintaining its commitment to WHS with 2024 being the second consecutive year it’s been recognised.

In 2024, it was for Best WHS Health and Wellbeing Program (Large Organisation).

They provide their staff with tailored support services from personalised counselling to stress management programs.

“Our dedication to a holistic health and wellbeing approach is an ongoing journey, which is why we’re constantly introducing updated initiatives to support out staff,” executive general manager of people safety and environment at Newcastle Airport Georgina Chalker said.

“We’re so grateful to be 2024 Hunter Safety Award winners.”

2024 Hunter Safety Awards winners

  • WHS Business of the Year: Swietelsky Rail Australia
  • Best Health and Wellbeing Program (Large Organisation): Newcastle Airport
  • Best Health and Wellbeing Program (SME): Swietelsky Rail Australia
  • Best WHS Improvement (Large Organisation): Metso
  • Best WHS Improvement (SME): Fenech Demolition
  • Best WHS Management System (Large Organisation): Westpac Property Group
  • Best WHS Management System (SME): Machinemonitor
  • Most Innovative WHS Idea (Large Organisation): Singleton Council
  • Most Innovative WHS Idea (SME): SafeGauge
  • WHS Champion of the Year: Paul Olive (PLUS ES)
  • Young WHS Leader of the Year: Kurt Speers (Red Insight)
  • Best WHS Training Program: Coal Services Mines Rescue

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