Helen Fitrzoy's passion for workplace safety commenced following the death of her husband in 1991, in an underground mining accident in Norseman, WA - leaving her a widow at the age of 33 years, with three young children to raise alone. At the time of her husband Steve's death, mining fatalities in particular were largely 'normalised' - by not only companies, but also government agencies. Such tragedies were considered part of the business and virtually no support was offered to families, to enable them to move forward with their lives.
One of the strategies that Helen used in coping with her circumstance, was to write - she wrote to her husband, but wrote largely for herself and small children and several years later, Just a Number was published. The book outlines the journey Helen and her children took for the five years after Steve's death, as they waded through the quagmire of emotional, legal and bureaucratic processes that make up the life of families bereaved by a workplace fatality.
Just a Number is now used largely throughout the resources industry around Australia, as a means of informing workers and their families of the dire consequences on loved ones, of the devastation of a workplace fatality. For the past decade, Helen has also travelled extensively throughout Australia, and internationally, delivering safety presentations to companies and their employees, to illustrate the importance of both parties' commitment to safety at work. This has also been accompanied by the production of a DVD of the same name in 2007.
For the past two decades, much of Helen's time has been devoted to campaigning for, not just improved safety within the mining sector, but also for improved, on-going support for bereaved family members. This has culminated in the establishment of the Western Australian Resource Workers Legacy Scheme Incorporated (known as The Miners Promise), of which she was the Deputy Chair, before taking on the role of Family Support Advisor, working directly with affected families for two years. This organisation ensures that no family of a resource worker is left in a position of poverty or isolation following a crisis event, including the death of a loved one, predominantly in WA and members receive a diverse range of on-going support.
Her goal is to see this initiative developed, not just Australia-wide, but internationally.
Your presentation was by far and away the single most powerful talk I have ever had the pleasure ot be a part of. As a Manager of a predominantly field based crew, my main focus is to ensure ... keep reading every single employee gets home safely to their family and friends. It really was a powerful message and I really do believe that your efforts are, and will continue, to make a difference. Atlas Iron
Thank you for your very thought-provoking and moving talk. We really appreciate how much everyone's attention to implementing and maintaining safe work practices makes a positive difference to our quality of life both at work and at home. I'm sure that you have inspired many of us to be more aware and proactive in making changes happen. Thank you.
I first heard Helen's presentation at the Minerals and Energy conference a couple of years ago. When I knew she was coming to Port Hedland, I did my best to encourage our workgroup to listen attentively. 'Just a Number' is a powerful tool for changing individual perspectives on workplace safety - if they are open to change. Unfortunately, there are (and probably always will be) risk-takers in any organisation, and for them this type of presentation falls on deaf ears. Let us hope and pray they learn to listen before they have to stand across the grave from the widow and children of someone in their workgroup who has been killed due to their priority - production. Tragedy or triumph - it is our crucial choice. Thanks Helen.
I wanted to thank you for your very inspiring talk. My partner and I both work in the mines and I do worry about our safety there. It's such an awful situation you were thrown into. I can't imagine your pain and I hope for my sake I don't have to. If anything good has come out of your husband's passing, it's that you're such a wonderful, motivational, inspiring speaker. (I even had a few boys from work tell me they had to hold back a few tears!) Thank you again and I wish you all the success and joy in the future.
Congratulations on how you were received at the State Labour Conference. Clearly your stand for families shines through in front of an audience - party politics or not. There were only good reports from the Mining Department regarding your presentation. The guys from the Perth Office were also impressed. Thanks again.