EVERY second day a worker is killed at an Australian workplace, leaving families and loved ones mourning.
The families of two Ballarat men, Charlie Howkins and Jack Brownlee, who died when a trench collapsed at a workplace at Delacombe on March 21, know that pain all too well.
On Wednesday, Charlie Howkins’ wife, Lana Cormie, and Jack Brownlee’s parents, Janine and Dave, will be in Canberra for the tabling of a Senate report, “The Prevention, Investigation and Prosecution of Industrial Deaths within Australia” which will provide recommendations on workplace safety.
Dr Cormie said workplace deaths was one of Australia’s “biggest unspoken tragedies.”
“There have been 42 soldiers lost in Afghanistan since October 2001. Safe Work Australia’s preliminary data for 2017 shows that 191 workers lost their lives last year,” Dr Cormie said.
“This figure does not take into account workers who die of injuries and illnesses related to their work environment, nor does it take into account suicides related to a workplace. This is one of the biggest unspoken tragedies of our times and the Australian public are totally unaware.”
Early indications reveal companies are not following safety guidelines, which Dr Cormie said was due to “lacklustre” workplace laws.
“If a worker breaches a workplace safety law, they lose their job. If the company breaches the same law, they’re able to find weaknesses in our current laws and end up with just a slap on the wrist,” she said.
Dr Cormie said the inquiry was brought about by the constant campaigning by Kay Catanzariti, who lost her son Ben in a workplace accident in 2012 and Shauna Branford who lost her brother in 1997 in a gas explosion in Sydney.
READ MORE: How a tragedy united two families.
Ms Branford said the inquiry had highlighted the inadequacies of the authorities who are charged with investigating deaths and injuries suffered in Australia’s workplaces.
“When the findings of the inquiry are handed to parliament on October 17, the families of workers from all over Australia, who have tragically lost their lives in horrific circumstances will be there to speak for those who no longer have a voice,” Ms Branford said.
“It’s time for Australia to act on one of the biggest unspoken tragedies of our times and the families that will be there in Canberra will make sure that their loved ones haven’t died in vain.”
Mrs Catanzariti, from Griffith in New South Wales said she was simply a mum who had lost her son.
She said families from all over Australia would meet with politicians from all sides of parliament during the day.
“Pandora’s box has been opened up. They weren’t aware of the extent of how the families are treated and the journey that is before them,” Mrs Catanzariti said.
“You could tell by the senators at the public meetings that they were astonished at what they were hearing from the affected families.
“you put your trust and faith in the so called regulators and authorities to do the right thing because that is their profession and then at the end due to the breakdown of the legislation, it’s then gone.”
Once the report is tabled on Wednesday, politicians have three months to accept its recommendations.
“We the affected families would really like a prompt response from the government, because technically they don’t have to respond until first sitting back,” Mrs Catanzariti said.
“They will go away and have a fantastic Christmas, we as families don’t. The best gift they can give us is accepting these recommendations before Christmas.”
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