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Weekly round-up: Workplace tragedies result in deaths, and work/life balance trumps salary

By Kace O'Neill | |7 minute read
Weekly Round Up Workplaces Tragedies Result In Deaths And Work Life Balance Trumps Salary

In this week’s round-up of HR news, five people have passed away in a workplace tragedy in Italy, burnout has been speculated as the reason for a bus crash that claimed seven people’s lives, and data shows the work/life balance takes priority over salary.

5 workers fall victim to toxic gas poisoning

According to the BBC, five workers have been killed in a workplace accident at a sewage treatment plant in the Italian city of Palermo. This is building off of an alarming trend of workplace fatalities occurring right across Italy, causing frustration and anger among workers and trade unions around safety regulations.


It’s reported that the workers were found unconscious and not wearing any masks, raising more concerns about safety protocols at the facility. The workers seemingly succumbed to toxic gas poisoning, with one worker barely escaping with his life from the deadly fumes to raise the alarm.

“I heard them screaming but couldn’t do anything to save them. I’m alive by some miracle,” said worker Giovanni D’Aleo.

The workers had been operating in an underground tank, accessible only by a hatch that was at street level. At the time of the incident, there had been a concentration of toxic gas radiating, which was 10 times higher than the danger limit.

Firefighters arrived on the scene and retrieved the bodies of the five dead workers and rescued another in serious condition. The other man was found unharmed.

“Full light must be shed on this tragedy. I hope that full clarity will be shed on the dynamics of the incident,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on X.

The accident took place just a few weeks after an explosion at a hydroelectric plant near the northern Italian city of Bologna, resulting in the death of seven workers during maintenance operations, highlighting the alarming trend.

Burnout, possibly the cause of bus accident that claimed 7 lives

According to CBS News, a bus has plunged into a river in Saint Petersburg, Russia, claiming the lives of seven people on board. The total injuries were not specified, but the emergencies ministry also stated that six people removed from the bus were in serious or critical condition.

Local Russian news reported that there were 15 to 20 people on board the bus when it broke through a bridge barrier and plunged into the river, completely submerging it under the water. Six people were able to escape the bus on their own.

A newly released surveillance video shows the scary sight, displaying the bus driving fast, making sharp turns onto the bridge while swerving across lanes, and even colliding with other cars on the bridge until hitting the barrier and falling into the river.

An eyewitness reported that some bystanders leapt into the water to help the passengers.

The bus driver was detained by police. His wife was quoted by Russian media as saying that managers forced him to work a morning shift after working for 20 hours the previous day and getting virtually no rest. An investigation has been opened up.

Work/life balance trumps salary

Accountants value work/life balance and flexibility over their salary, with 41 per cent considering the ability to work from home as a non-negotiable in a job.

According to Accounting Times, accountants are more inclined to prioritise their work/life balance compared to other industries such as law or banking and finance, with 15.5 per cent rating it at the top of their priority list when looking at new job opportunities.

SEEK’s Laws of Attraction survey featured the responses of 385 accountants collected between January 2023 and February 2024.

“The ability to work from home, or somewhere close to home, is a key driver for these professionals, in comparison to other industries, as are other flexibility factors such as the ability to work flexible working hours, or additional leave policies,” SEEK said.

The survey found that of those respondents who rated work/life balance as the number one driver, 41 per cent considered the ability to work from home as a “must have”, showing the intertwinement of the ability to WFH and a work/life balance.

This shift towards preferring a work/life balance is not an isolated one, with a number of workers across various industries opting for it rather than a high-paying salary. However, legal professionals, for example, placed equal importance on both salary and work/life balance, with just one-third saying the opportunity to WFH was a “must have”.

Although that work/life balance mindset is continuing to be widely accepted, there are still diversifying priorities pertaining to the industry that one resides in. Accounting seems to be moving away from that salary-centric mindset, as they rated a working environment (10.9 per cent), management (10.2 per cent) and career development (9.4 per cent) as their top drivers.

“Diversifying interests – as seen in other industries, the weighting of importance against work/life balance and salary and compensation has slightly declined, as other drivers such as career development, culture of the organisation and social and environment responsibility incrementally increased,” SEEK said.

“This shows that what accounting professionals want right now is becoming increasingly nuanced.”



Employees experience burnout when their physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Usually, persistent tension or dissatisfaction causes this to happen. The workplace atmosphere might occasionally be the reason. Workplace stress, a lack of resources and support, and aggressive deadlines can all cause burnout.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.