Hidden costs, hidden lives: financial effects of fatal work injuries on families
Matthews, LR and Quinlan, M and Jessup, GM and Bohle, P, Hidden costs, hidden lives: financial effects of fatal work injuries on families, Economic and Labour Relations Review, 33, (3) pp. 586-609. ISSN 1035-3046 (2022) [Refereed Article]
Although workplace death is known to have profound social and psychological effects on families, the economic consequences have not been explored. This pioneering study investigated families' financial situations following fatal workplace injuries. An online survey explored the impact of post-death financial change on 142 participants from Australia, Canada, the USA, and the UK using a scale from the economic strain model. Half of the participants experienced financial loss, and the proportion struggling financially increased from 24% to 62% after the death. Workers' compensation claims were made by 74% of participants, but they reported problems with delays, levels of entitlement, and satisfaction with the scheme. Other key sources of assistance were family and friends or support groups and services. Participants who were older, next-of-kin, and partner/spouses were significantly more likely to experience financial loss as were those whose deceased relative worked 51+ hours per week, possibly because the deceased was self-employed or worked significant overtime not covered by compensation settlements. Those experiencing financial loss sought short- and long-term financial help, accessed social security, re-entered the workforce, acquired mental disorders, and experienced declines in physical health, at significantly higher rates than participants without financial loss, and their children developed mental health problems significantly more often. Findings highlight the detrimental, and potentially intergenerational, effects of financial loss on the health and wellbeing of families bereaved by traumatic workplace deaths. Policy issues flowing from the results are discussed, including how this informs wider debates on refashioning regulatory protection.
occupational health, work fatalities, welfare, social protection