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Research and Briefings

Confronting the crisis of workplace fatalities


The tragic Dreamworld accident in 2016, which resulted in the loss of four lives, was a crisis that unfolded under the weight of immense public attention and media interest. For many organisations, it also highlighted the importance of having a robust crisis management system.

More than 200 workplace fatalities took place around Australia in 2016. Of these, 27 fatalities (including both workers and bystanders) occurred in the month of October1, the same month of the Dreamworld accident, of which only a handful attracted national press or televised coverage.

So why did the deaths at Dreamworld attract so much public attention and the accompanying media frenzy? Dave Charlton, Workplace Health and Safety Senior Consultant at Marsh, suggests there is no hard formula and that every business needs to be prepared.

“The Dreamworld incident was played out extensively in the media, which unfortunately created speculation
while official investigations were still ongoing. It can be unpredictable which events the media will focus on
but with Dreamworld’s iconic status as a family destination, combined with the fact the accident involved
members of the public including children, the incident resonated loudly with the public,” says Charlton.

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1. Safe Work Australia, Notifiable Fatalities December 2016 Monthly Report.