NT WorkSafe review ‘heartbreaking’, says woman whose partner died at work

Posted March 14, 2019 16:58:20

Tanya Louth says a “heartbreaking” review into workplace safety in the Territory should prompt urgent action within the organisation that investigated her partner’s death.

Key points:

  • Ms Louth’s partner Daniel Bradshaw, a deckhand, died at work in 2017
  • His company was fined $190,000 and the skipper will soon appear in court
  • Ms Louth welcomed the review but said it was tough to hear about the cultural and structural problems within NT WorkSafe — the body that investigated Mr Bradshaw’s death

Yesterday, an independent review into the NT’s workplace health and safety practices was released, more than two years after her 37-year-old partner Daniel Bradshaw died at work.

He was discovered floating face down in the water near a Darwin wharf and was found to have died after losing his balance while climbing from the barge — on which he lived and worked — to the wharf, as there was no gangway between the two.

The company responsible, Colon Murphy, was fined $190,000 for the workplace health and safety breaches that led to his death.

Barge skipper Nicholas Mitchell, who was allegedly responsible for ensuring the gangway was in place, has been charged under the workplace health and safety laws and will plead guilty later this month.

He is the first individual worker ever charged under these laws.

Yet more workers die per capita in the Territory than any other Australian jurisdiction.

‘Devastating for the Northern Territory’

While Ms Louth welcomed the review and its 27 recommendations, she said it was tough to hear about the cultural and structural problems within NT WorkSafe — the body that investigated Mr Bradshaw’s death.

The review found the skills of NT WorkSafe personnel needed upgrading, with inspectors currently only required to hold a certificate four.

It went on to describe a top-heavy workforce and likely morale issues within the body, with many staff confused about their reporting chains and feeling they could not openly voice concerns.

It even alleged the relationship with the coroner’s office had broken down because of the regulating body’s failure to prosecute some recent cases.

“It is massively heartbreaking,” Ms Louth said.

“I try and rise above that and realise that what they’re doing now, and what they’re pushing for, is for people in the future and for the community and for other mums and dads to come home safe.

“So I have to push past that and try to be strong.”

She said the recommendations were sorely needed, particularly one which described the need for a complex investigations unit led by an experienced senior investigator.

It also recommended NT WorkSafe consider tapping into expertise in the Major Crime Unit of the NT Police.

“In my eyes the community has been let down extremely, every single day,” Ms Louth said.

“It’s clear the current laws aren’t working.

“It’s pretty devastating for the Northern Territory and I think that they should be taking action as soon as possible.”

‘We’re still left without Dan’

Not only did Ms Louth and her children have to cope with the heartbreak of Mr Bradshaw’s death, they fought for compensation for more than two years.

But although it finally came through last week, Ms Louth said it was a two-edged sword because now there was nothing to distract them from their grief.

“To get to a stage where we can actually start focusing on just grieving, it has hit us like a brick wall,” she said.

“Because now, after trying to stay strong through all that, now we’re realising that at the end of everything we’re still left without Dan.”

But she said she remained motivated to fight for change to prevent other families from facing the trauma and heartbreak inflicted on hers.

Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said the NT Government would now pull together an implementation plan based on the review.

“Territorians deserve to be safe when they are at work and this review will help us provide the best possible Territory regulator, to protect Territory workers while supporting Territory businesses,” Ms Fyles said.

“This review has highlighted areas where we can make improvements, and we are now examining the findings and recommendations of the report.

“It is important to get this right, to ensure the regulator has the best possible operating model, and we will be developing an implementation plan over coming months.”

The NT WorkSafe chief executive officer declined an interview request.

Topics: workplace, accidents, disasters-and-accidents, work, community-and-society, laws, law-crime-and-justice, government-and-politics, darwin-0800, nt

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