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On This Day

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By Edith Logan (Wife of Max)

I'm sitting here, reminiscing. Remembering my childhood, meeting the man who would become my husband, our lives together with the normal highs and lows, and the complete and utter devastation that occurred on the morning of 22nd November, 1999. That was the day my life, as I had known it, changed irrevocably. My beloved husband of 29 years was taken, prematurely, in an accident at work.

The day had started off as usual. Max worked early morning shift, and went off to work at his normal time, leaving me asleep. I woke and went about my normal morning routine, before heading off the the gym for my Monday morning swim. I arrived home to find my answering machine flashing with 2 messages. The first was from a friend who had heard on the radio about a fatal accident at the Sawmill. The second was from another friend, who had been visited by the police, looking for me, (as I discovered later), asking me to return the call. At that stage, I had heard nothing about the accident. I rang both friends, who informed me of the accident, so I rang the Sawmill, to be told that yes, there had been an accident, and that my husband 'wasn't too good'. A short time later, a police car arrived. I, by this time, was in a bit of a state, thinking that maybe I would be required at a hospital! Our son Keith was living and working in Roxby Downs, and he had heard, through a friend of a friend, that his father had been killed, so he rang me for confirmation. He flew home that afternoon.

The next few days are a bit of a blur. I can remember phoning Max's sisters interstate, asking them to break the news to his elderly parents. His mother was so distraught, she could not make the trip over for the funeral. How I got through that day, I still don't know. I can remember bits of the day. One of the hardest days of my life, and definitely the saddest.

Life has continued, albeit a very different life. First the problems of dealing with WorkCover, then the strain of the prosecution process. A psychologist was sent to my home on the day after the accident. She was told she could only spend 1 hour with my son and I. How can something so life-altering as this be 'dealt with' in one hour? The case manager assigned to me by WorkCover was sympathetic, but no ruling could be made until a cause of death had been established. (The final Death Certificate arrived on 23rd November, 2001, 2 years and 1 day after the actual death.) Workplace Services Inspectors investigated the accident site, and made safety recommendations. It was revealed during the Industrial Court hearings that some of these safety modifications had been removed some time after Max's death, in consultation with employees, because they had been 'holding up production'! The final Industrial Court decision was handed down on Friday 13th July, 2002. The Sawmill was fined $34,000. Not much for a man's life, is it?

Max's untimely death has impacted on many different lives. His father and mother have died, his father of a broken heart, and his mother remembering that her only son had pre-deceased her, despite her advancing dementia.

Six years later, the reality of my loss has finally hit, with my need of psychological help. My son is a very bitter and angry young man. A few of Max's workmates are still affected by what they saw on that fateful day. My beloved husband has been denied the opportunity of getting to know our beautiful grandchildren.

Yes, my life has continued. I don't sleep well, am very lonely and 'alone', and finding it harder and harder to cope with everyday living. I'm angry. Angry that the Managing Director of the Sawmill could send me a sympathy card, giving condolences to "Edith and Max - so sorry about the death of Keith". He couldn't even get the name right! Angry that the safety equipment had been removed - putting other lives at risk. Angry at the lenient fine - the maximum is never given, as the reasoning is that there is always a workplace worse than the one that allowed the accident to happen. Angry that no particular person has taken responsibility for the lack of training and safety equipment at the time of the accident.

Life does go on, but in ways that no-one can imagine. The pain is something I live with every day, and my heart goes out to the dozens of Industrial Accident victims, their families and friends. I know that these accidents will never be totally eliminated, but if I can help prevent even one person from going through what I have over the past nearly 7 years, then my fight will be worth it.

Edith Logan