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Technology Used To Study Tree Fallers’ Safety

May 12, 2008

Innovative Multi-Camera Technology Used To Study Tree Fallers’ Safety Now Studying Emergency Services Workers

Innovative video research used to study the safety of forest workers is now finding a much wider application.

The forestry study was funded by ACC and carried out by the Crown Research Institute Scion’s Centre for Human Factors and Ergonomics (COHFE) looking at whether experienced tree fallers are safer on the job than novice workers.

“We commissioned the research because in 2005/2006 seven forestry workers were killed while tree falling, which was a disturbing surge in fatalities,” said Don Ramsay, ACC’s forestry injury prevention Programme Manager. “The forestry industry’s training organisation, FITEC, suggested we investigate whether experienced and inexperienced tree fallers operated differently.”

To do that COHFE attached two video cameras to the helmets and shoulders of both experienced and inexperienced tree fallers. The cameras recorded when the tree fallers looked up, what cuts the workers were doing at the time, and how many cuts they had to make.

The project was aimed at assessing how often tree fallers “looked up” and whether inexperienced fallers looked up less than experienced workers, making themselves more likely to be hit by falling objects.

COHFE research ergonomist Richard Parker conducted the project using multi-camera technology, which was believed to be a New Zealand first in human behaviour research. He then used computer software usually employed to study animal behaviour to monitor the workers’ movements.

“What we discovered was that experienced and novice workers looked up the same number of times, but the experienced workers looked up sooner and were safer. Also the novice workers took longer to tidy their cuts up, which meant they weren’t as productive as the experienced workers. This shows the value of training – both from a safety and a productivity standpoint.”

Richard Parker said the research methods could now be applied to almost any task because it gives a “user’s view” of what’s going on, as well as quantified data around the task, which is collected using sensors.

“We are already using the gear in rural fire fighting so see how fire fighters operate. And by using heart rate monitors and GPS tracking we can record exactly where any of the fire fighters were at any time, and how they reacted to such a physical job.”
The other bonus of collecting the data on film means that the actual video can be used as a training resource for the subjects – most immediately that will be for novice tree fallers of this “Playstation Generation.”

ACC will also be summarizing the tree falling findings into a Forestry Safety Guidance leaflet to be discussed at forestry tailgate meetings.


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