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Debbie and Dan Kennedy

Safety Advocates

Debbie and Dan are Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Safety Advocates.

Their son Dale was working in a ceiling space when he died from an electric shock. Dale was only 20 and close to finishing his electrical apprenticeship. He was also a young father himself.

Debbie and Dan share their story to encourage workers (especially young workers), to voice their concerns if they see something that is unsafe, and to always turn the power off before working in a ceiling space.

"If you have been asked to do something unsafe just say no, it’s not worth it. You're a stronger person if you stand up for your own safety, we want you to go home at the end of the day to your loved ones."

Debbie and Dan Kennedy

I love you, Dad - The Dale Kennedy story

I love you, Dad – The Dale Kennedy story shares a family's heartbreak after their son's preventable death while working in the ceiling space of a Cairns school.

Debbie and Dan are members of the Consultative committee for work-related fatalities and serious incidents, which was established to ensure there is an ongoing consultative forum for injured workers and families affected by a workplace death, illness or serious incident.

Read more about the committee.

Download a copy of this film (MP4, 1.3GB)

Order your free copies of Debbie and Dan’s film via

Your business can apply for Debbie and Dan Kennedy or another of Queensland's Safety Advocates to attend your event and share their story to increase awareness and influence behaviour change, free of charge.

Dan Kennedy:Something I'll never ever forget. He got up. He was going to leave, so he just hopped up and walked over and give me a kiss, and said 'I love you dad'. He said 'I'll catch up with you later'.

But I never really got to talk to him after that.

Melissa Pisot:Dale was always amongst everything with dad. Always wanting to give him a hand with anything.

Dudley Powell:Severely energetic, and at the same time, very loyal.

Dan Kennedy: He loved riding the horses. We'd go out and muster. We might muster five or six hundred head, and Melissa would hop out in the lead and Dale would take the wing, and away we'd go.

Melissa Pisot: I was very protective of him, and then as he got older he became protective of me.

Tamara Burkin:Dale and I met at a party. When he walked into the room, his smile would light up the room.

Wayne Goggin:We put an ad in for a first year apprentice, and Julie and I sat down and went through it all.

Julie Brocq-Goggin:I saw Dale's name, and I just remember sweeping the rest into the bin and saying to Wayne 'This is the person you want to be your apprentice'.

Melissa Pisot: He always talked about where he wanted to go further once he'd finished his apprenticeship.

Wayne Goggin: He was more competent and more professional than some of the tradesmen I've employed in my business. I had a system going that if they could beat me at my rules and regulations, well I'd put on a carton of beer for the boys. So they were always trying to outsmart the boss. And when Dale beat me one day, my nose got rubbed in it for many months, and if he was alive today he'd still be doing it.

Tamara Burkin: When we found out that I was pregnant, I was already three and a half months.

Debbie Kennedy: They were young parents, so they were a little bit nervous about that, but they were way beyond their years with their maturity. He wanted to be that hands on dad and provider.

Tamara Burkin: He cried when he first saw him. He did everything that a dad should do, changed nappies, fed him.

Rhys Willis:He also went through a bit of a change I think when he had Cooper as well. He was always the larrikin, but he really knuckled down and got serious as soon as Cooper came into the world.

Tamara Burkin: Cooper was his whole world.

Dudley Powell: From day one he was proud of Cooper.

Wayne Goggin: I saw a young man grow up very quickly overnight. He went from a boy to a man.

Tamara Burkin: It was on the Tuesday night he said to me 'What would you do if I asked you to marry me tomorrow? Because tomorrow is the last three even dates for a long time,' and it was the 12th of the 12th of the 12th.

Dan Kennedy: I got a phone call from Dale's boss saying that Dale had been electrocuted and could I get out to Bentley Park College as quick as possible. It took me a while to get there, because in the morning traffic going out. When I got there the media and everybody was at the school. There was ambulances, there was fire brigade. And on the way in, one of Dale's work colleagues was standing there and he had his head hung. He just didn't look at me. And I knew it was bad.

And Dale was laying on the floor of the room covered up with a sheet, and they took the sheet off so that I could sit there and talk to him and give him a cuddle and give him a kiss.

Wayne Goggin: I remember coming into the room after being told that Dale had had an incident. I saw the shock horror on three or four of the school faces that were there. The paramedics were there. And the image I go to bed with every night is the paramedics working on him.

Julie LeBrocq-Goggin: I worked at the school, and I knew that Wayne and Dale and his other workers were there that day. I tried to go into the room where the emergency services were working on Dale. I was begging just to go in and hold his hand. I just wanted to hold his hand.

Debbie Kennedy: And it wasn't until I walked in the office where Dan was that I looked and I thought this can't be good. Because I thought to myself he's going to say two names probably, Melissa or Dale. And then everywhere outside when we were walking, everything was just dark, and the world was grey.

Tamara Burkin: I received the phone call in the morning from Debbie to go over there. Just like my whole body shut off. I thought something was up. And then as I've got out of the car, Dan told me what had happened.

Melissa Pisot: Yeah, I walked in the door, and as soon as I seen everyone I just said 'What's happened to Dale? Where's Dale?' And I pretty much collapsed as they told me what happened.

Dudley Powell: I was just broken and I just cried. I've never ever been so hurt and just destroyed.

Rhys Willis: It's not really a phone call you ever want to get. You don't know what to say. I don't even – it's kind of like what do you mean he's gone?

Melissa Pisot: The first thing I thought when I heard he had died, I was like I just hope that it was quick and he wasn't laying there thinking about Cooper without him.

Dan Kennedy: On that day they arrived at the school, and they were supposed to start on a different building, not that building.

Melissa Pisot: He was working in the ceiling just running cable for a CCTV I think, because the school had been getting broken into. So he wasn't even doing any electrical work.

Dan Kennedy: I think Dale leant against the air-conditioner unit to move his sol board just a bit further, and when he put his hand down on the beam and his back, he got electrocuted through his back.

Dr Christopher Andrew: Electrical injuries, and particularly industrial electrical injuries, are very common. Whether you live or die can't be summed up in one particular little rule or otherwise. It depends on the degree of exposure, the amount of current that passes through the body, where it passes. Let's say someone contacts electric current through their two hands. The current will pass up one arm, through the chest and to the other side, broadly speaking.

The danger there is that it passes very close to the heart, and it can induce heart rhythms which stops its ability to pump blood regularly to the remainder of the body.

Greer Novak:The best way to reduce the risk of electrical incidents in roof spaces is to turn the power off at the switchboard, and make sure no one turns it back on again. However, it's important to remember that by turning off the power at the switchboard, you may not turn off all the sources of power in the roof space. For instance, solar cables and mains cables will remain live even when you have turned off the power at the switchboard, and these risks will need to be controlled.

The Electrical Safety Office also strongly recommended safety switches be fitted on all circuits of domestic, commercial and industrial premises. Sadly, there have been too many electrocutions and serious electrical incidents due to contact with live parts in roof spaces.

Some of the most common causes appear to be pierced cables making metal parts such as roof battens live, cables damaged by vermin, unterminated cables, or faulty equipment. These hazards are difficult to see. Roof spaces can be dark and difficult to navigate. You just don't know what dangers are lurking, so the simple and most effective way to keep workers safer up there is to switch off the power.

Melissa Pisot: You know, sometimes when you lose someone people think you might not want to talk about it, so they don't bring him up. But we'd rather talk about him so he's not just a memory, he's still alive every day.

Debbie Kennedy: It wasn't what you think life was going to be.

Dan Kennedy: It just rips your heart clean out. You just – it changes you. You're just not the same person anymore that you used to be.

Debbie Kennedy: And now we've got a little boy growing up without his father.

Dan Kennedy: When Dale died, the police took all Dale's clothing. They took everything that Dale had on him that day. And it wasn't until a fair while after that I was able to get some of Dale's possessions back, and Dale's phone was one of them. And on that night before Dale died, he took a little video of Cooper.

Dale Kennedy: I love you. (Cooper Kennedy's laughter.)

Dan Kennedy: That's the most precious thing, and it's the only thing that I've got Dale's voice on, and I've listened to it a million times.

Julie LeBrocq-Goggin: When I think about Cooper, I think a lot about Dale, because Cooper's about that age now when I taught Dale.

Tamara Burkin: Like father like son. Cooper was a mirror image of Dale when he was growing up.

Dan Kennedy: As he's getting older now, we can –

Debbie Kennedy: He is asking questions.

Dan Kennedy: He's asking a lot of questions and telling about his dad's mates and all the things that he used to do.

Melissa Pisot: You just have to look at Cooper and I see just different parts of him is Dale. And it's nice. He's still around.

We try and keep Dale's memory alive in many ways. One of the things that we do every year is there's a Skills 360 awards night, and one of the awards that's given out is the Dale Kennedy Award. It goes to an apprentice who shows mateship, works well in a team, aware of safety, like how to keep themselves and others safe at work, a hard worker. Pretty much what Dale was.

Julie LeBrocq-Goggin: My husband organised with his car club to do a big cruise. There were thousands and thousands of people, and we raised a lot of money, over $20,000 for Cooper.

Melissa Pisot: On the first anniversary of Dale's death, we planted a tree in his memory outside the building he was electrocuted in. Every year on his anniversary we can go to and lay flowers or just feel like we're sort of with him for a moment.

Greer Novak: Any worker entering any ceiling space to perform work should turn off the power.

Melissa Pisot: Definitely having such a loving family and supportive family like my mum and dad.

Julie LeBrocq-Goggin: Debbie and Danny, and Melissa, knowing them before Dale passed and then seeing what it did to them, it took a big toll emotionally and physically on them both, and it's only recently we've sort of seen that they've started to live again.

Dale Kennedy: I love you. (Cooper Kennedy's laughter.)

[End of transcript]

“I know that our staff at Scenic Rim value the presentations from the Safety Advocates. I have had staff comment to me that they have called their electrician to check on their electrical wiring at home. Staff have also had their solar panels checked.”

- Pauline Wimmer, Scenic Rim Regional Council

Debbie and Dan presenting to Scenic Rim Regional Council.
Debbie and Dan presenting to Scenic Rim Regional Council.

“It has made people aware of electrical safety. We are very grateful for Dan’s time.”

- Matt Humphry, GSL Services

“A huge thanks to Dan Kennedy for his time. All the staff were very touched by his story. They all believe Dan is a very courageous and noble man for sharing his story. He made the staff think about safety in their own work space.”

- Lisa Moloney, Centacare NQ

“Many of our workers have children themselves and could relate to Dan's extremely emotional and heartbreaking story of Dale's passing. The idea of looking after yourself and your mates by standing up and saying something if a situation doesn't look safe, are the best messages that everyone heard.”

- Sarah Thomson, Belconnen Steel Pty Ltd

“Dan's story is tough to hear but it is an important reminder of how critical safety is with the work that we do, and the need for everyone to speak up if something isn't safe. We all get caught up with our day-to-day jobs and our small worries, and sometimes it's easy to forget the consequences that can happen if something goes wrong. Thank you Dan for sharing your family's story. Your strength in reliving what happened in order to make sure others are kept safe is inspiring. The conversations around the workplace after the presentation showed that by sharing Dale's story, you have definitely made our team think twice about safety at work and the impact their actions can have on themselves and their families.”

- Paul Messina, Messina Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Pty Ltd

Dan presenting at Messina
Dan presenting at Messina Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Pty Ltd.

  • “Really makes WHS personal.”
  • “This was important—I feel that all first year apprentices need to hear this story as they are coming into their trades to empower them to stand up for themselves when they think something might not be right.”
  • “Wake up reminder—sad.”
  • “Very inspiring and important story, thank you for sharing.”
  • “Great to include to keep everything human.”
  • “A very moving story and a real eye opener for the importance of workplace health and safety.”
  • “Eye opening.”
  • “An excellent portrayal of life experience.”
  • “Gut wrenching.”

- Post-event survey comments, North Queensland Injury Prevention and Return to Work Conference

“The team were very engaged during and after the presentation. A number of the team have approached the Leadership Team to discuss things that they would like to see changed or updated within the workplace. While the message is a somber one, it does prompt everyone to be reflective of their actions and think about how they go about their everyday tasks. Thank you for the opportunity to engage with Dan, we would be more than willing to participate and endorse any other programs that continue to benefit workplace health, safety and wellbeing."

- Paul Hannay, Chauvel Industries

Dan at Chauvel
Dan at Chavel Industries.

“Speaking with attendees afterwards identified that they appreciated the presentation and would be passing on their learnings to others in the workforce. Appreciate the openness and honesty from Dan. Thoroughly recommend this presentation to others.”

- Neville Atkinson, Resources Safety and Health Queensland

Dan presenting at Resources Safety and Health Queensland
Dan presenting at Resources Safety and Health Queensland.

"Such a powerful message and honest talk about the incident and how it impacted the lives of so many. Such a great service you provide and always open to new ideas to get the safety message across."

- Grant Tienan, Tunnel Network Services

"The story was very sad and when a room of grown people have tears running out of their eyes (including myself) you know the story is powerful and is hitting home. It was great as tragic as the circumstances were. The Kennedy's should have pride within themselves for the simple reason they are trying to make things better and preventing a reoccurrence."

- Ian Shepherd, Aurizon

"Good morning Dan, the team at FNQ Avionics and Yates Aero would sincerely like to thank you for your presentation and time on Tuesday. The presentation was very well received by our staff and no doubt will remember the valuable knowledge you have shared for life. Warm regards."

- Alison and crew, FNQ Avionics and Yates Aero

Dan at FNQ Avionics and Yates Aero
Dan presenting at FNQ Avionics and Yates Aero.

"The presentation from Dan, although obviously being very sad, was very captivating which is everything we were hoping for. The audience were fully engaged in listening to every word of Dan's delivery as they were hearing it first hand from someone who has unfortunately lived the horror of his son's death along with the ongoing grief and pain of losing Dale to what was an avoidable incident. Dan was very open in describing the impact that this tragedy has had on him, his wife, his family, friends of the family, Dale's friends and most tragically, Dale's former partner and son.

"Dan emphasised the point that this, and all workplace incidents, are very avoidable if everyone in the workplace is diligent in performing their works and diligent in ensuring all works are performed safely. The presentation by Dan was very beneficial to our business as being delivered from someone who has lived the tragedy first hand, it has much more impact than us talking about these incidents second hand with our employees. We, like Dan, believe that if his presentation prevents one injury or incident then his time in delivering his painful message is well spent. We thank you and Dan very much for the presentation."

- Ross Stubbings, Stowe Australia

"On behalf of the entire team at DC Electrical, we would like to thank Dan and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for the presentation. With a team of young people, many now with young families it was a strong reminder to not just be responsible for your own workmanship but be aware of the risks associated with other people's works, as well as the danger risk of ceiling/confined space works. Dan and Debbie's loss is heartbreaking to hear about, but we thank Dan for the courage to speak about it, as we now have 30 + employees with increased awareness of why safe work needs to be at forefront of their mind and the consequences for them, and those around them when there is a workplace incident like this. Thank you."

- Aaron, DC Electrical

"A big thank you to Dan and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for arranging his visit. Dan's story really hit home with site, followed by many questions, and we have followed up by ordering stickers to be placed on the manhole to the roof space reminding you to switch off before going into the ceiling space."

- Jayd McKenzie, Gladstone Power Station

Dan presenting at Gladstone Power Station
Dan at Gladstone Power Station.

"Thank you again for organising this for us. Dan's presentation was very powerful and the room was silent when he told his story. It was a story that is so important to tell and relevant to all workers and everyone who pokes around in their homes, in ceiling spaces. Our team really appreciated his presentation and are confident his message rang through to everyone."

- Amanda Nicolo, Built

"Dan's message was received very well, with many people walking away with lots to think about. Thank you so much for your help and support!"

- Jenny Krasny, Caterpillar

"The presentation by Dan went over very well. Well attended and well received."

- Patrick Wilson, Skills Tech TAFE Queensland

"The Apollo team were so very amazed at Debbie and Dan's courage to share their story. The guys didn't feel comfortable taking photos as they were very emotional and simply lost for words."

- Lyndall McCabe, Apollo

"Unfortunately no pictures were taken … everyone was concentrating too much on Dan's presentation. Of all the Safety Advocate visits we have had Dan's presentation hit them quite hard emotionally … there were numerous tears around the room. Our maintenance team always make sure I have booked a Safety Advocate for our forum as they get so much from the presentations. Dan's presentation really enforced the importance of managing our electrical risks. The Safety Advocate program is fantastic and such a valued resource to us. I really appreciate the commitment the advocates have in delivering their messages."

- Peta Jerome, Bolton Clarke

"Our crew really appreciated Dan sharing his story. The session initiated some really value adding discussions within our team including improving our minimum standards when it comes to entering roof spaces. Also our most senior technician mentioned that this has really changed the way that he thinks about his approach on jobs including what he finds in switchboards and the conversations that he will now be having with our customers. Dan was very open to our diversity of questions and we are ever so grateful for his openness to our curiosity. Also it was humbling to hear of the process Dan and Debbie have been going through with the inquest; and how they are champions of change for our industry by working towards improving the minimum safety requirements to better protect our technicians, community and loved ones."

- Sherree Raffin, Wondai Electrical

Dan at Wondai Electrical
Dan at Wondai Electrical.

"We can't thank you enough for the opportunity to have Dan visit our students, undertaking trade traineeships. Dan's ability to share Dale's story left every person in the room looking at safety in a totally different light. Our usually lively bunch of people, were so deeply engaged that you could hear a pin drop in the room. You could feel the enormity of how Dale's death had impacted not only the Kennedy family, but their friends and the community as a whole. Staff and trainees walked away from the session with a real certainty of the importance of safety, no matter what industry, workplace or situation you might find yourself in. It was an vital reminder to everyone listening, the importance of complying with safety policies and procedures, and speaking up if you feel that something isn't safe! Thank you Dan for sharing your story and keeping Dale's legacy alive."

Some of our trainees spoke to us later:

  • "Wow – I completely understand why you're always talking about safety."
  • "I'll never zone out during a pre-start talk again!"
  • "I didn't think that the trade I was wanting to get into was much of a safety risk, now I can see how easily things like this can happen to anyone."
  • "I'm going to show the video to my mates who are tradies, they need to see this!"

- Shelly Knight, SANDBAG Inc.

Dan at SANDBAG Inc.

"Dan and Deb Kennedy… what to say… they are two very kind and great hearted people and I am very grateful for having met them and having them in our toolbox session."

"No words can be expressed on how hard it is to lose a child and having to remember this on a daily basis when also attempting to deliver good practices, safety and a compliance messages, however Dan and Deb did it and constantly achieve that. The general feedback was having received a very touching story of parents who lost their child in a work related incident and subsequently having a devastating impact on family, work colleagues and friends."

- Tiago Amaral, Downer UAM

"Having Debbie and Dan at our Branch Meeting in Cairns was a sobering reminder of the dangers in our industry but also that reset and refresh for our members that are safety conscious. Their presentation was very received and we are very grateful for their time."

- Michael Heinemann, Master Electricians

Dan and Deb at Master Electricians
Dan and Debbie at Master Electricians Cairns Branch meeting.

"On behalf of the ENGIE Services Queensland team we would like to thank Dan for sharing Dale's story. Our team were moved by the presentation and it related directly to our work activities of working in ceiling spaces. It sent a strong message that we all have the right to stop work if it's unsafe and that those doing electrical works must ensure it's compliant. We thank Dan for sharing learnings from this tragic event. We commend his commitment to share Dale's story to improve the safety of others."

- Nathan McPherson, Health and Safety Manager, Engie Services

Dan at Engie Services
Dan at ENGIE Services.

"Thank you to Dan for speaking at our trade college. His story touched a lot of our students as they are all engaged in working in a trade and go out regularly on work placement. The students talked (later) about how far reaching the tragedy of Dale's death was to his family, friends and work colleagues. They felt Dan spoke from the heart and it was an important story for them to hear. Some of the students wept and many of them shook Dan's hand or gave him a hug to express their sorry and support for him and his family. Thank you Dan for your courage in presenting and giving this gift to our students."

- Tracey Langton, Australian Trade College

"Thank you so much for arranging Dan to come out to our College and speak. The session was very informative and very emotional and Dan spoke straight from the heart. He is an amazing person to advocate for safety and I can assure you his presentation reinforced our message of awareness and complacency among the work site."

"The feedback I have received from staff present was that they really enjoyed the presentation and are aware of how incidents, such as the one with Dan, has a huge effect not only on the loved ones but work colleagues and friends."

- Randall Gibson, Director of Quality, Risk and Compliance, Sheldon College

Dan at Sheldon College
Dan at Sheldon College.

"Dan's message hit home with a few of our team as I had a couple of guys approach me during the day commenting on the impact Dan's story had."

- Damien, General Manager, Eveready

"On behalf of ATG Projects we would like to thank Dan and Debbie for giving us the opportunity to have them visit our office, this has been by far one of the best things we have done with our team, I say that with all the respect for Dales family. This experience and learnings will be engraved in to our Safety Commitment and Values from here on end, we must ensure workers and young workers in particular take on work at our job sites in an environment that is safe to work in."

"Like many of us, Dale's plan was to make a living for his family and support them in every way possible, as of now everyone at ATG Projects will remember Dales Legacy."

- Samir Jaramillo, ATG Projects

Dan and Debbie at ATG Projects
Dan and Debbie at ATG Projects.

Leave a comment for Debbie and Dan Kennedy

Such a tragic event. Thank you for sharing your story to raise awareness and help save lives.

A very moving video. It brought tears to my eyes. My son is also an Electrician, let's hope this video helps save lives.

Such a touching story, beautifully and sensitively presented. A lesson for us all, not just those in the industry.

Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story. Such a tragedy for a young family to go through, yet such bravery for the parents to speak out and raise awareness.

What a powerful story! Your family have gone through so much. Thank you for sharing your story.

Your film is very moving. I hope you raise awareness.

Workplace visits

Your business can apply for Debbie and Dan Kennedy or another of Queensland's Safety Advocates to attend your event and share their story to increase awareness and influence behaviour change, free of charge.

I love you, Dad - The Dale Kennedy story

Consultative committee for work-related fatalities and serious incidents

If you have suffered as a result of a work-related fatality or serious injury, you can direct message a request to join a closed support group via our Support for families of workplace fatalities, illness and injuries Facebook page.