Work fatalities, bereaved families and the enforcement of OHS legislation
Matthews, LR and Johnstone, R and Quinlan, M and Rawlings-Way, O and Bohle, P, Work fatalities, bereaved families and the enforcement of OHS legislation, Journal of Industrial Relations, 61, (5) pp. 637-656. ISSN 0022-1856 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2019 Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA)
There has been considerable research and policy debate over the enforcement and decriminalization of occupational health and safety legislation, particularly regarding its capacity to deal with serious harm. Reference has been made to community attitudes to work fatalities, but the perspectives of those most directly affected, the bereaved families, have received little attention. Drawing on evidence from detailed interviews with 44 Australian family members, this article seeks to rectify this omission. Findings highlight the importance of investigative and prosecutorial processes to bereaved families who seek justice, some assurance that culpable behaviours are not condoned, and the implementation of measures to prevent a recurrence. However, reinforcing previous research critical of the degree of enforcement and advocating for a more readily implementable offence of industrial manslaughter, the vast majority of those interviewed were critical of the processes that occurred. Far from assisting, these processes generally left families very dissatisfied with their experiences.
criminal justice system, family, industrial manslaughter, next of kin, occupational health and safety, regulation, traumatic work fatalities