Horror of watching mate die in workplace tragedy lingers

BRIAN Mace watched the man he regarded as a brother die in a horrific workplace incident more than two years ago.

It was one of two workplace fatalities in as many days and a tragedy from which the 68-year-old has never recovered.

Employed as a truck driver and delivering pipes at a works depot in Chinchilla, Mr Mace was one of the first on scene when his best mate, Billy Joe Watts, was crushed and killed instantly by a 900kg metal pipe.

"I tried to find signs of life on him; there was no pulse, nothing," Mr Mace said.

"It was instantaneous. It knocked me around pretty bad.

"We were very close mates; he was like a brother to me."

Brian Mace has suffered ongoing psychological injuries after witnessing his best mate killed in a workplace accident in 2017.
Brian Mace has suffered ongoing psychological injuries after witnessing his best mate killed in a workplace accident in 2017. Contributed

Two days earlier, on Yuleba North Rd, another colleague Adrian Steppens died in a horrific car crash.

Mr Mace knew Mr Steppens well, having worked closely with him.

But it was watching Mr Watts, known to friends as BJ, die that left him psychologically shattered.

Mr Mace has since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, for the past 12 months, has been unable to work.

"I tried to keep going, tried to shut everything out but I couldn't," he said.

No longer able to drive trucks, which he had done for more than 40 years, Mr Mace has taken to farming his land and taking each day as it comes.

Meanwhile, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is continuing its investigations into the Cooper St worksite death of a 30-year-old man on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland is continuing its investigations into the Cooper St worksite death of a 30-year-old man on Saturday. Win News Toowoomba

He struggles psychologically each day and has shared his story to show the gravity of mental impacts of workplace incidents.

"I wish it was a physical injury because you can get over that," he said.

A co-worker who witnessed the same incident fell into a life of crime, acting as a drug courier and was jailed earlier this month.

Maurice Blackburn associate Allison Grimley, who is an advocate for National Safe Work Month, said both physical and psychological injuries could have lingering impacts on workers.

"Like any work-related injury, psychological injuries often have a lifelong impact on the individual and can also take a huge toll on their loved ones and colleagues," she said.

National Safe Work Month runs throughout October.


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