Susanne Bahn

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Management / Centre for Innovative Practice




This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of: Bahn, S. T. (2012). Moving from contractor to owner operator: Impact on safety culture; a case study. Employee Relations, 35(2), 157-172. Available here


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether a change in staffing contractual arrangements, specific training in hazard identification, mentoring of supervisors and the introduction of a robust safety system could improve an organisation's safety culture. How safety conditions change under contracted out labour compared to direct labour and the influence that contracting out has on organisational safety culture is explored. Design/methodology/approach – The study used a case study methodology to detail how the change occurred over a six month period in 2011. As part of the analysis a model of the change process and push-pull factors is offered. Findings – As a result of the change, all areas saw some improvement. Work-related injury statistics dropped significantly, supervisors were clear of their roles, actively monitoring their crews to ensure they worked in a safer manner than before, and staff were actively addressing work-place hazards. With the safety system in place the organisation should be deemed compliant and diligent by the state auditing authorities. This study has also shown that using contractor workers together with in-house workers that are managed under different safety regimes is problematic. The problems don’t occur due to the contractor's safety systems being less robust than the parent company's or that contract workers are themselves less safe; it is the added complexity of managing multiple safety regimes and the lack of trust of the robustness of each system that create conflict. Research limitations/implications – The paper reports on the change process of one mining organisation in Western Australia as a case study from a managerial sample and is thereby limited. Practical implications – This study demonstrates the difficulties in changing safety culture in an underground mining organisation. The paper argues the need for specialised training in identifying hazards by the staff, the mentoring of supervisory staff and the adoption of a robust safety system to support improved safety culture. Originality/value – There is little research conducted in the resources sector researching changes in human resource supply and OHS management, in particular moving from contracted labour to hiring in-house. This case provides an insight into how a change in staffing hiring arrangements, together with specific safety initiatives, has a positive impact on safety performance.



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