The human factor of forest safety

Brionny HooperHuman factors scientist Brionny Hooper helps individuals perform to the best of their ability while compensating for their natural limitations.

A recent addition to Scion’s Human Factors Team, Brionny examines the interactions that occur between humans and their environment, in complex high-risk industries like forestry.

She is working with key industry stakeholders to develop safety and performance initiatives that will benefit both workers and industry alike. As Brionny explains, human factors is an applied multidisciplinary science that looks at ways to optimise performance, maximise longer-term productivity and minimise the potential for errors, all without compromising worker safety and well-being. This increased capability places Scion in a good position to support the New Zealand forest industry achieve its safety and productivity goals.

“Industry can learn a lot from human factors research,” says Brionny. “One of the primary lessons is that safety is achieved by improvement rather than constraints.

“People don’t intend to make errors. If we can enhance their ability to respond, monitor, anticipate and learn in a high risk environment – we can save lives. It is incredibly important work because our workers are still ultimately responsible for the success and safety of forestry operations.”

Brionny has experience applying human factors and safety systems principles in a number of inherently hazardous industries, including the military, aviation, oil and gas, utilities, mining, road and rail transport. Throughout this time, she learned the impact of applied science.

“While highly controlled lab studies may produce scientifically robust findings, these are not often operationally relevant for industry stakeholders.

“I’ve been able to apply practical solutions to minimise safety risks, promote improved health and well-being, and optimise performance and culture. Several of these solutions have included integrated multilevel compilation and analysis of accident databases, and the development of comprehensive incident management systems.”

Scion has allocated core funding to address the physiological and psychological challenges in motor manual harvesting, in addition to a comprehensive review of human factors initiatives and research priorities in allied industries (aviation, oil and gas, mining). The findings of this research will be used to develop a research strategy in alliance with industry. Systemic and structural risks across the value chain that may affect optimisation or worker health and well-being in forests, will also be investigated.

An immediate avenue of research for Brionny will be to identify benchmarks for workforce improvement initiatives to establish credibility and presence for industry stakeholders. As mechanisation of the forestry industry continues, understanding and integration of human factors will be essential for successful change adoption and management in this area.

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