Accidents and safety in New Zealand logging : the central role of the contractor : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Health Science at Massey University
New Zealand logging has a high accident rate which has concerned health and safety personnel, accident insurers, researchers and members of the industry. Efforts to reduce logging accidents and to promote safety, have included development of better equipment and training methods, and understanding of patterns of accident occurrence. The research to date has been mainly quantitative, and focused on individual factors. The aim of the present study was to develop an understanding of the social processes which surround logging accidents to provide a broader perspective of accident causation and its implications for safety promotion. 47 loggers and 32 logging contractors from three regions of New Zealand participated in unstructured interviews which were recorded, transcribed and coded with the assistance of NUD.IST, a computer programme. Personal observations in the workplace and numerous informal discussions with a range of industry personnel, complemented the interviews. The qualitative methodology, Grounded Theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), was chosen to analyse the data. The results show that loggers perceive that individual factors such as risk-taking, violation of regulations, training, experience, equipment used, and the physical environment affect safety. The analysis of the data revealed that the impact of all these factors is moderated by the contractor who, in such an isolated environment, has a dominant role in the crew culture. The ability of the contractor to organise and motivate workers so that time can be allowed for learning and using appropriate techniques was critical to the safety of the crew. Frequent restructuring of the logging industry, together with falling log prices, have created instability which has impinged on the ability of contractors to run their crews safely. Increased expectations for production have placed pressure on safety systems. Some contractors managed to maintain safety through a proactive approach to training, efficient systems, and a positive safety culture while still being able to improve production. There is a widening gap between contractors who have responded proactively to the changes and those who have resisted them and struggled to manage in the new environment.