Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

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Volume 1 Issue 3 (September 1993), Pages 125-182

Deaths in the Workplace and the Dynamics of Response (pages 125-137)

Deaths in the workplace are traumatic events from which most organizations involved recoil rather than scrutinise. This paper explores workplace fatalities in multiple employer worksites over a year in Victoria, Australia. Individuals and organizations involved demonstrate conscious and unconscious defences in order to distance themselves from the trauma and deal with anxiety. Legal processes introduce a new set of defences in displacement of responsibility and blaming. Most involved in fatality fail to confront the crisis and to learn from it. In contrast, in a few cases, managers and organizations exhibit reflective responses which enable them to examine the circumstances of the death, deal with legal proceedings and initiate organizational changes. To enhance reflectiveness, a combination of managerial, organizational and legal remedies are described. In particular, the development of organizational cultures which promote safety is argued but in ways which recognise the complex cultures and subcultures of worksites where many fatalities occur.

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