Forest owners support workplace safety reforms

7 August 2013

The Forest Owners Association (FOA) welcomes the government's workplace health and safety reforms announced today.

"The government has a vital role to play in improving safety in the workplace," says president Bill McCallum. "It has the power to pull a range of levers that will influence attitudes, understandings and behaviours of all involved."

He says lax attitudes to safety are prevalent in New Zealand and even with the best will in the world, it is a battle to get safety to be seen as the number one priority by every individual in the workplace.

"What we desperately need is a change in culture at all levels of our society, so that unsafe work practices are rejected as being socially unacceptable. We have seen huge changes in social attitudes to drink driving and tobacco smoking, thanks largely to government support for campaigns addressing those issues.

"We now need the same focus brought to bear on cultural attitudes that portray risk-taking as being acceptable.

"The real game changer will be when we get acceptance from everyone involved – from the boardroom through to the worker in the forest – that we have a collective and personal responsibility for health and safety. This is a responsibility to and by the worker, as well as to their workmates, their families and the businesses they work for."

He says members of the FOA and the Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) aim to do better than the government goal of reducing workplace injuries and deaths by 25% by 2020.

"We are acutely conscious of our workplace death toll and the huge impact this has on the families, friends and workmates of those involved. No workplace fatality is acceptable," Mr McCallum says.

"Forest owners have implemented a number of major safety initiatives, but we are open to new ideas about how we can do things better and, in conjunction with FICA, are initiating an independent review of forest workplace safety.

"The reforms announced today are significant and will reinforce the efforts of both FICA and the FOA towards creating a zero harm workplace. But while strict enforcement of regulations is critical, without strong leadership from all forest owners and contractors and 100% commitment to safety from all involved in the industry we will not achieve the zero harm goal we are seeking."

for more information, please ring Bill McCallum, Tel 07 571 7907 or 021 347 608