Sons’ tragic deaths inspire parents to keep other workers safe

THE parents of two young men who tragically died after being electrocuted at work have teamed up with the state government to try and prevent the tragedy from happening again.

Tragically, in the past five years, 123 people have lost their lives at work in Queensland, or died from work-related disease or illness, while a further 52 bystanders were killed.

Marking International Workers’ Memorial Day on Sunday, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace announced grieving parents Dan and Debbie Kennedy and Lee Garrels had joined the state’s Safety Advocate program.


Dan and Debbie Kennedy’s 20-year-old son Dale was a third-year apprentice electrician who was electrocuted while installing data cables in the ceiling space of a Cairns school.

Michael and Lee Garrels’ son Jason was also just 20-years-old when he was electrocuted at a construction site in Clermont in 2012. He had only been working on the site for nine days.

Ms Grace said both families were committed to preventing further tragedies.

“The Safety Advocate program draws on the terrible experiences of everyday Queenslanders who have either been injured at work, or have had a family member killed at work,” Ms Grace said.

“Our advocates are incredibly brave, speaking to workers all over the state about what can happen when safety is overlooked.

“International Workers’ Memorial Day is an opportunity to honour and remember these people and their families and friends, and be reminded that there is always more we can do to keep our workers safe.”

Ms Grace said the state government was currently drafting new laws to make it mandatory to turn the power off before workers entered a ceiling space.

Safety Advocates will visit workplaces and speak at safety meetings, toolbox talks and other events.

Each advocate has worked with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland to produce a film about their experience of a personal injury, or the death of a loved one and its impact on family members, friends and work mates.

“The Safety Advocate program has gone from strength to strength over the last few years, with the advocates visiting nearly 200 workplaces in 2018, and well on track to top that in 2019,” Ms Grace said.

“Their message clearly resonates with workers and employers alike – no-one wants to go through this kind of experience.

“I have the utmost respect and gratitude for the work they do – it must be incredibly challenging to relive these memories. To do so for the good of other people is nothing short of heroic.”

Workplaces across the state can book safety advocates for a free visit to get a powerful and personal safety message from people who know just how important working safely is.

To learn more about safety advocates and watch their films, click here.