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Anthony Bonello: safety integral to managing water storages

2 July 2024 | News
2 July 2024

Managing water storages that supply irrigation water to some of Victoria’s most important farming regions is a big responsibility. It’s one we take seriously, and safety is at the heart of the job.  

Anthony Bonello is a Multi-Skilled Storage Operator who works with our western storages. He said the team’s philosophy of safety-first helps them manage risks effectively.

“Whether you’re traversing a walkway at the top of the Melton reservoir, 25 meters above the river below, entering confined spaces in dam outlet towers, ensuring community safety, or working in more remote areas with bad reception – our first goal is to be always safe,” Anthony said.

Anthony has worked at Southern Rural Water for five years.Southern Rural Water worker in front of tower at Merrimu Reservoir

“Before joining the water sector, I worked as an A-Grade electrician in the construction industry; immersed in various settings, from apartment buildings to high-stakes arenas like hospitals and even a prison,” Anthony said.

“These experiences honed my technical skills, while I also learnt to navigate complex scenarios to ensure the safety of myself and others. This instilled a deep-rooted commitment to safety.”

For the last two years Anthony has also been an Occupational Health and Safety representative. This volunteer role helps connect his team with broader safety learnings – including tapping into different experiences and expertise – as well as to proactively address work hazards and risks.  

A highly specific safety environment

No two days are the same for the headworks west team, which manage Merrimu, Melton, Pykes Creek and Rosslynne reservoirs, as well as the Lerderderg and Werribee weirs.

Daily tasks span a wide spectrum – from conducting inspections and maintaining infrastructure, to the upkeep of public recreation facilities, managing contractors and monitoring river flows. For this, our headworks operations team receives specific training and follows robust procedures to complete each task safely.  

For example, our teams receive four-wheel drive training so they can safely access remote locations via dirt tracks. Confined space training helps them to know how to work safely in underground or enclosed areas that house electrical and mechanical equipment. The team are also trained to work at heights, essential for safely scaling ladders and crossing walkways along the top of dam walls, such as at Lerderderg Weir.

Our teams use best practice risk management tools such as Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS), Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Take 5 checklists to identify hazards and put in place controls that help manage risk on jobs and sites.  

We also have specific procedures for emergencies and times when things can be unpredictable, such as inclement weather during floods and storms, or working alone in remote areas.

As well as physical safety, the mental well-being of our headworks team is a top priority for us at Southern Rural Water because we want everyone to feel good about themselves and their work.

Providing progressive parental leave, flexible working conditions and leave, an employee assistance program and an inclusive culture helps create an environment where people feel safe to ask for help and receive it.  

Our unwavering focus on safety is vital when managing nationally significant infrastructure. And we want our community to understand that by taking our safety seriously they can feel confident we’re taking their safety seriously too.