Despite touted improvements in workplace safety over time, occupational injuries remain a significant burden world-wide. In the changing economy, the organisation of work is influencing our understanding of workplace safety problems and their amelioration by creating challenges to accurate injury surveillance and research approaches. Further, work organisation factors and organisational decision-making can influence injury risk directly, but also through more insidious indirect channels.
The public health hierarchy of hazard control has long been a guiding principle for our occupational injury research and serving to focus research questions on the higher, more efficient tiers that are more likely to have lasting effects on larger populations of workers. While this approach serves to very appropriately direct attention away from a focus on individual worker behaviours, sometimes a focus on the control of hazards using this traditional prevention model can contribute to failure to consider broader root cause organisational factors.
Using examples from empirical work, we describe important organisational factors that ultimately influenced worker safety and well-being. These structural processes were not always included in our original variables of interest, but were identified as we sought to improve our understanding of the context in which workers of interest were being injured. A variety of qualitative methods provided insight into our original quantitative analyses. The examples demonstrate the importance of careful consideration of downstream effects of organisational decisions on worker safety.
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