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Use of narrative analysis for comparisons of the causes of fatal accidents in three countries: New Zealand, Australia, and the United States
  1. A Williamson1,
  2. A-M Feyer2,
  3. N Stout3,
  4. T Driscoll4,
  5. H Usher1
  1. 1NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre and School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2New Zealand Environmental and Occupational Health Research Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  3. 3National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
  4. 4National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, Sydney, Australia
  5. 5
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Ann Williamson, NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre, Building B10, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia


Objectives—To investigate the utility of narrative analysis of text information for describing the mechanism of injury and to compare the patterns of the mechanism of injury for work related fatalities in three countries.

Methods—Three national collections of data on work related fatalities were used in this study including those for New Zealand, 1985–94 (n=723), for Australia, 1989–92 (n=1220), and for the United States, 1989–92 (16 383). The New Zealand and Australian collections used the type of occurrence standard code for the mechanism of injury, however the United States collection did not. All three databases included a text description of the circumstances of the fatality so a text based analysis was developed to enable a comparison of the mechanisms of injury in each of the three countries. A test set of 200 cases from each country dataset was used to develop the narrative analysis and to allow comparison of the narrative and standard approaches to mechanism coding.

Results—The narrative coding was more useful for some types of injury than others. Differences in coding the narrative codes compared with the standard code were mainly due to lack of sensitivity in detecting cases for all three datasets, although specificity was always high. The pattern of causes was very similar between the two coding methods and between the countries. Hit by moving objects, falls, and rollovers were among the five most common mechanisms of workplace fatalities for all countries. More common mechanisms that distinguished the three countries were electrocutions for Australia, drowning for New Zealand, and gunshot for the United States.

Conclusion—Narrative analysis shows some promise as an alternative approach for investigating the causes of fatalities.

  • narrative
  • text analysis
  • fatalities
  • occupational injury

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