Forest industry endorses safety report

31 October 2014                            

The sponsors of the Independent Forest Safety Review see the review panel's major recommendations as a blueprint for change.

“We accept that safety needs to be given highest priority in the day-to-day operations of the industry,” says Forest Owners Association (FOA) spokesperson Bill McCallum.

“It is unacceptable to have any forestry workers seriously injured and killed on the job. Everyone who works in our industry has the right and responsibility to return home safely at the end of the day.

“By adopting the report’s recommendations and continuing to drive the safety initiatives we already have underway, I am convinced we can transform our industry into a safety success story.”

He says the sponsors – the FOA, the Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) and Farm Forestry Association (FFA) – commissioned the review in late 2013, after a terrible year for forest fatalities.

“Despite the best efforts of many people over many years, workers continued to be injured and killed in our forests. It was clear that we needed an outside expert review in order to achieve our target of zero serious harm injuries.”

He says the FOA executive and the boards of the two other sponsoring organisations, are now studying the report. Once they have discussed the findings with their members, decisions will be made about who takes responsibility for implementing the recommendations.

“These decisions will need the involvement and support of government, Worksafe NZ, training organisations, ACC, Federated Farmers and others. Forest safety involves many players outside the industry itself.”

FICA spokesperson John Stulen says the industry has champions who put safety first. Their initiatives have saved many lives.

“But what we haven’t achieved is a cultural change across the industry from ‘can do’ to ‘can do safely’. Making this cultural change is probably the most important message in the report.

“Fine words will not be enough,” he says. “Safe working practices will now need to be agreed with contractors right along the supply chain and documented in contracts or by reference to the Approved Code of Practice and Best Practice Guidelines.

“Compliance needs to be rewarded and non-compliance penalised. Carrots and sticks if you will.”

FFA spokesperson Peter Berg says smaller forest owners tend to harvest infrequently, so tend to hire contractors based on word-of-mouth.

“The panel’s support for the accreditation of contractors, as well as workers involved in safety-critical work, will help to reassure owners of smaller forests that they are hiring a contractor with the appropriate skills and that they are also meeting their obligations under health and safety legislation.”

He says the report highlights incidents and case studies which are both positive and negative for the forest industry.

“It is now important that we focus on the positive … those are the examples that we can all draw inspiration from. They show that we can transform our industry so it is seen as a great place to work – safe, rewarding, and professional.”

For more information, please contact the following:
Farm Forestry Association spokesperson, Peter Berg, Tel 021 421 291
Forest Industry Contractors Association spokesperson, John Stulen, Tel 027 275 8011
Forest Owners Association spokesperson, Bill McCallum, Tel 021 347 608