The social & financial impact of a workplace injury or illness is one thing that most Australians will never face. Unfortunately for some in the community, the impacts of a workplace accident are very real and the on-going issues for family members can be devastating and life-long.
Last year 191 Australians lost their lives as a result of their employment and a further 106,000 made claims for serious injuries. According to Safe Work Australia, approximately 77% of the costs of workplace injuries and illnessesare born by workers with an average cost to the worker of more than $90K. Businesses also bear a direct financial burden with increased compensation premiums and lost productivity costing business an average of $5,800 per incident.
The family multiplier effect of workplace fatalities and injuries is one that is seldom quantified in the broader community. If we could place a financial and emotional value on the anguish and pain suffered by family members following a traumatic work incident, it would no doubt help us to come to terms with the real cost of injuries and illnesses at the workplace.
For Safetysure Consultant, John Ninness, one safety moment with a victim’s family has stuck with him for a long time.
In July 1972, the Box Flat Mine Disaster claimed the life of eighteen Ipswich men. While the tragedy has gone down in Queensland mining history, few will now remember the heartache and pain that the families faced following the disaster.
Back in 2005, Safetysure John met with the wife of Len Rogers who was killed during the disaster. Len was a Brigade Captain with the Booval Mines Rescue. It was a safety moment that changed his perception and his work health and safety journey.
John said “Betty Rogers was a wonderful individual who had lived with the memory of the night of the disaster her whole life. Betty was gracious enough to tell me her story over the kitchen table of her Eastern Heights (IPSWICH) home. It (the disaster) was like yesterday to her…only it was 33 years later. I had been a safety professional most of my working life, but at no other time had I really realised the importance of the work that I do.”
“It was like yesterday to her”
John added “I cried a lot with Betty that day. It left me with in indelible memory of the impacts from the sudden loss of her husband and soul mate had on her life. She told me of how she not really come to terms with her husband’s body never being recovered and the emotional struggle of raising children without their Dad and hero. Even though Betty and her family received some small amount of financial compensation from the disaster, the sudden and unwelcome changes to their life circumstances had clearly impacted Betty and her family long into the future.”
“I cried a lot with Betty that day”
John said Betty has passed away now, but he was “grateful for her sharing her touching moment. That moment with Betty changed my whole reality of work, health and safety.”
In October each year Australians observe National Safe Work Month. Safe Work Month is a time for when workers and employers to commit to building a safe and healthy workplace. The theme for this year’s National Safe Work Month campaign – ‘A moment is all it takes’ – calls on Australians to spend a moment each day considering safety in the workplace.
This October, take a safety moment and consider the impact of safety in the workplace and the broader community. Try to identify issues that could minimise the life-long impacts of injuries and illnesses on people like Betty. One safety moment could save a lifetime of pain and heartache.
During October 2018, work health and safety consulting company Safetysure will be offering a free safety check  at small businesses across Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne. The intent of the offer will be to help small business take a first step to improving safety and minimising the business impacts of a work-related injury or illness.
You can also find more information on the National Safe Work Month website, including posters and graphics specific to a range of industries.
You can also join in the campaign by sharing your safety moment using #mysafetymoment
NOHSC report The Cost of Work-related Injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2012–13 completed 2014