Sons’ tragic deaths inspire parents to keep workers safe

Published Sunday, 28 April, 2019 at 09:00 AM

Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations
The Honourable Grace Grace

The parents of two Queenslanders who were electrocuted at work are sharing their stories to remind others to stay safe.

Marking International Workers’ Memorial Day today <April 28>, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace announced Dan and Debbie Kennedy and Lee Garrels had joined the Palaszczuk Government’s Safety Advocate program.

Ms Grace said both families were committed to preventing further tragedies after their sons died in separate workplace electrical incidents.

“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.

“Tragically, 123 Queenslanders have lost their lives in workplaces incidents, or from work-related disease or illness in the past five years. A further 52 bystanders have also lost their lives.

“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.”

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

“The Palaszczuk Government is currently drafting new laws which will make it mandatory to turn the power off before workers enter a ceiling space,” Ms Grace said.

Michael and Lee Garrels’ son Jason was 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.

“Michael and Lee work tirelessly with us as part of a consultative committee to give other people affected by a workplace tragedy a voice and help them get the support they need.”

Queensland Safety Advocates 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.

Learn more about safety advocates and watch their films at


Media contact: Scott Chandler - 0439 578 472