A survey of forest workers in New Zealand. Do hours of work, rest, and recovery play a role in accidents and injury?

J Safety Res. 2002 Spring;33(1):53-71. doi: 10.1016/s0022-4375(02)00003-8.


Problem: A number of structural and organizational changes have occurred recently within the New Zealand Forestry Industry, with concerns being raised about the impact of these changes on the forestry worker in terms of fatigue, sleepiness, and compromised safety. This study explored the relationship of fatigue, and some of its key determinants, with accidents and injuries in a group of forestry industry workers in New Zealand.

Method: A total of 367 forestry workers responded to a self-administered questionnaire.

Results: Fatigue was found to be commonly experienced at work in the forest, with 78% of workers reporting that they experienced fatigue at least "sometimes." This study found that certain groups of workers reported long working hours, reduced sleep, compromised recovery time, and intensely paced work. The results of logistic regression analysis showed that recent sleep, number of breaks taken during the workday, and specific job/tasks were independently associated with reporting of high fatigue levels at work. Near-miss injury events were significantly more common among those reporting a high level of fatigue at work. Accidents and lost-time injury were associated with length of time at work, ethnicity, and having had near-miss injury events.

Discussion: Together, these results suggest that fatigue and aspects of work organization, which are likely to be fatiguing, may be associated with compromised safety for forest workers.

Impact on industry: With an already slim margin of error present in forest operations, an impairment due to increased fatigue may constitute a significant risk factor for accidents and injuries in this workforce. The results indicate the need for further examination of shift and workload management among forestry workers, as well as a role for improving industry awareness about the causes and consequences of fatigue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Forestry / standards*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*