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Int J Health Serv. 2012;42(4):647-66.

Traumatic death at work: consequences for surviving families.

Author information

1
Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Lidcombe NSW, Australia. lynda.matthews@sydney.edu.au

Abstract

Research and policy on occupational health and safety have understandably focused on workers as the direct victims of workplace hazards. However, serious illness, injury, or death at work also has cascading psychological, social, and economic effects on victims' families and close friends. These effects have been neglected by researchers and policymakers. The number of persons immediately affected by workplace death is significant, even in rich countries with relatively low rates of workplace fatality. Every year, more than 5,000 family members and close friends of Australian workers become survivors of traumatic work-related death (TWD). This study investigated the health, social, and financial consequences of TWD on surviving families. In-depth exploratory interviews were conducted with seven family members who had experienced TWD from one to 20 years before the interviews, with an average of three years. All reported serious health, social, and financial consequences, including prolonged grief and unresolved loss, physical health problems, family disruption and behavioral effects on children, immediate financial difficulties, and disturbance of longer-term commitments such as retirement planning. Recommendations for policy development and improved practice are proposed to minimize the trauma and suffering experienced by families, mitigate consequences, and improve outcomes following a TWD.

PMID:
23367798
DOI:
10.2190/HS.42.4.e
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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