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Workplace hazard identification: What do people know and how is it done?

Correct and proactive identification of hazards in the workplace underpins all occupational health and safety practice and risk management strategies.

It is assumed that managers and workers have the skills to identify, not only obvious, but also emerging hazards in their day-to-day work. This study specifically investigates the ability of mining managers and employees in WA to identify hazards using a pictorial based questionnaire to develop strategies to increase hazard identification skills.

Research questions

  • Do managers and employees have the knowledge to identify workplace hazards correctly?
  • What processes can be used to increase managers and employees hazard identification skills?

Research methods

A critical realist perspective (Sayer, 1992) informs the proposed approach. Sayer (1992) defines the organisational structures as sets of internally related objects and mechanisms as ways of acting.

This qualitative study will have two data collection phases. At Phase 1 the focus is on knowledge of hazards. Data will be collected from 50 newly hired managers and employees at Australian Contract Mining (ACM), a specialist underground mining contractor, who has agreed to participate in the project and provide access to new recruits.

Using a technique that Chief Investigator Sue Bahn has successfully employed in a 2005 study with carpentry apprentices (Bahn & Barratt-Pugh, 2011); a series of pictures displaying worksite hazards will be issued to participants at their safety induction training.

At Phase 2 the focus is on the processes employed to identify hazards. In-depth, semi-structured interviews with up to 20 purposively selected OHS managers in the mining industry will be conducted to determine successful strategies to identify hazards based on the findings in Phase 1.


Dr Susanne Bahn, Chief Investigator

Funding body

Edith Cowan University, Early Career Researcher grant.


September 2011 – September 2012

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