On Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work, those who have died at work have been remembered, with pledges made to keep current workers healthy and safe.
At a special breakfast in Brisbane organised by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, people from all walks of life gathered to remember family members, friends and colleagues who have lost their lives due to a work-related incident.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said Workers’ Memorial Day offers us the chance to reflect on lives tragically lost at work and what we can all do to prevent this in the future.
“It’s a time to reflect and reaffirm that their premature and often preventable deaths haven’t been in vain,” Ms Grace said.
“Sadly, in the 12 months to the end of February this year, 24 people died in Queensland because of their normal work duties.
“Another eight bystanders lost their lives in a workplace setting.
“All left behind grieving families, loved ones and friends – people whose lives were turned upside down and have never been the same.
“Today is a particularly tough one for the families impacted by work-related fatalities,” she said
Minister Grace said she was proud of the work being done by the Palaszczuk Government to take care of families who have lost loved ones at work.
“For starters, our Investigation Liaison Support Officers provide immediate and ongoing support.
“The work of the Consultative Committee for Work-Related Fatalities and Serious Incidents – or Affected Persons Committee as it’s known – is also very important.
“This group ensures government, industry and Queensland communities learn from the experiences of people and families who have had to deal with work-related tragedies.
“The committee provides advice to us on what families need to make the process as bearable as possible and are supported as they navigate the complexities of investigations and coronial inquests.
“This has led to the Government funding a legal coronial assistance service which gives families access to free legal advice throughout the coronial process and a free grief and trauma counselling service for those who may benefit from therapeutic support,” Ms Grace said.
New chair of the Affected Persons Committee, Dan Kennedy, has lived through this, having lost his son Dale when he was fatally injured while working in the ceiling space of a Cairns school as a young apprentice.
Now as a Queensland Safety Advocate, Dan talks openly about his family’s heartbreak.
“Sharing the story of Dale and advocating for loved ones lost due to workplace incidents helps people to stop and think about what they or their co-workers are doing,” Dan said.
“There are so many workplace accidents that could be avoided – we need to normalise speaking up when something doesn’t seem right and listening when someone has concerns.
“You are the stronger person to have that voice or to be the one that hears it.
“We’ve helped Queenslanders navigate the heart wrenching loss of someone in a workplace incident – whether that be approaching government agencies, advocating for legislative change, knowing where to go when seeking legal advice or simply offering a friendly face that will listen and offer support.
“I wouldn’t wish losing someone you love on anyone; it takes a lot of you. The pain doesn’t stop – but a memorial day, Workers’ Memorial Day, provides an opportunity for the people still here to unite, feel support and reflect with those who have experienced something similar.
“We take the day to reflect on Dale’s life, what his life was and what it should have been. Dale was supposed to come home that day nine years ago,” Dan said.
Dan joined Ms Grace in urging all Queenslanders to pause and reflect on Workers’ Memorial Day about why work health and safety must be a priority for everyone.
“Take time to remember those who have died as a result of their work – and the families they’ve left behind,” Ms Grace said.
“I thank the committee and its new chair Mr Dan Kennedy for their tireless work to make sure affected families are better informed and better supported than they themselves were.”