Long ignored, the adverse consequences of workplace deaths extend well beyond its victims to their families, friends and the community more generally. Even leaving aside the much larger toll of deaths resulting from work-related disease, every year too many Australians are added to the death toll from traumatic injury at work.

Their death then inflicts shock, misery and loss on a much large group, their family and friends. For family members life is often changed irrevocably, grief that is only accommodated not ‘closed’ and changed financial circumstances that can alter the life trajectory of children. The toll is cumulative.

The numbers who suffer from the loss of someone precious to them each year doesn’t disappear as a new year begins. As this study shows, the consequences are profound and long term. This is not a new problem, it has been around for hundreds of years, but what is also disturbing is that it has received limited attention from researchers and policy makers.

This research has documented the breadth and the scope of the health and financial consequences of fatal work injuries for surviving families. It has identified the challenges that families experience navigating the formal procedures that follow a death and the difficulties encountered with authorities during this extensive period.

The study has also documented the experiences of authorities and their contact with families. For many, it is a problem of reconciling competing demands between their responsibilities to the legal system and their implied moral responsibility to the victims and their families.
Our report includes recommendations for change.

Some recommendations can be implemented immediately while others require change in legislation, policies, or practices that will take time to accomplish. A number of recommendations are already in practice but others need further action by authorities and lobby groups. We hope that this report, and the wider findings of this study, will be the catalyst for change.

A critical part of this study has been to identify and give some voice to the views and experiences of those who suffer the appalling impact of a workplace death. A number of bodies have been formed to advocate on behalf of these families. Hopefully, this study will assist their efforts to secure the important and urgent measures that are required.

Further research is needed to build on the broad baseline findings provided in this report. A more extensive representation by families could be achieved through research partnerships with government authorities who have access to the relevant next of kin data.

Research questions that focus on specific formalities and processes following the death would provide more detailed evidence of the benefits and challenges that families and authorities encounter. Prospective study design would allow for the nature and causality of relationships to be documented and the best timing for tailored interventions determined.

For further information please contact:
Associate Professor Lynda Matthews
P: +61 2 93519537