Big Safe-Start Programme Aims to Keep Forests Safe

January started with twelve regional Safe-Start events all across New Zealand (from Winton to Kaitaia). Traditionally January sees a high rate of accidents in forestry work as workers have to switch from holiday relaxation and festivities to the physically demanding and potentially hazardous forestry and harvesting operations.

"Our data shows Safe-Start to be an effective way of assisting with this transition and raising awareness of increased risk as people return to work; injuries are much fewer than what was seen a decade ago.", says Nic Steens, PF Olsen's Health and Safety Manager. "We also use the opportunity to provide information, inspiration and reminders from a range of presenters".

Whilst each programme varied at different locations, the event in Rotorua was notable for both its size and very interesting programme. An estimated 350 people attended the breakfast-based session held at the Heritage Hotel on Monday 11 January 2010.

"The benchmark is very high ...world class safety management and individual responsibility are requirements, ...we do not want to pay the price of injuries..." said Don Huse (OTPP Board Member) as he addressed the audience of forest worker employees and contractors.

Our second speaker, to quote John Stulen, CEO of FICA (the Forest Industry Contractors Association)... "Mike Sabin, Director of Methcon Group Ltd spoke about his son's terrible head injury and recovery during 2009 - and a heart wrenching story it was - told with emotion by Mike in 50 minutes but with images and video of his son over 9 months of recovery the talk felt like 20 minutes." Mike said... "We are all just one 'accident' away from disaster ...one wrong step, one short cut too many, one absent-minded oversight can, and often will, be difference between life and death, avoidable injury and certain harm. You don't get to choose what the outcome will be once the incident has occurred." He also reiterated the need for workers to be drug-free "The potential for forestry accidents is huge - why take drugs to increase that potential." 

Methcon provide drug awareness information to New Zealand businesses. This message was appropriately timed to coincide with the commencement of new random drug testing procedures introduced by PF Olsen, collaboratively with its many contractors. "We are working together on the 'drug problem' - to stem the incidence of drug-related accidents and make our operations safer places to work" says Nic Steens. "Testing to date shows (nationally) around 25% testing positive for impairing drugs (methamphetamine and marijuana). Workers testing positive are removed from safety sensitive work until they can furnish a negative test result and must enter rehabilitation and follow-up testing for a period of two years. For sure, this will place pressure on our capacity but we are committed to the programme which will benefit those that persevere."

Each Safe-Start event includes safety and operational awards.

Safety Awards: (Contested by all CNI operations)

  • Top Crew: S&R 53 (Simon Walker) - OTPP, VG Harvesting Crew
  • Most Improved Crew: Black Hawk 50 (Graeme Black) - OTPP, VG Harvesting Crew
  • Safety Innovation: R Smith Logging Contracting (2007) (Bryan Smith) - OTPP VG & CNI Distribution Contractor
  • Safety Leadership: (3 equal first)
    • Raumati Morgan - Intawood (OTPP Forest Management)
    • Kevin Mickleson - Manmac (Rotorua Harvest Management)
    • Warwick Gibbs - Gibbs and Olsen 32 (OTPP Harvest Management)

Operational Awards: (Contested by OTPP Harvesting operations)

  • Top Crew: H&R Harvesting 127 (Rodney Hubbard)
  • Most Improved Hauler: Maungawaru 8 (Dale Gilbert)
  • Most Improved Ground Based: Hohneck Tractor Logging 10 (Kas Hohneck)

Congratulations to all award recipients!

PF Olsen would like to thank the ACC and forest owners such as OTPP, VG and CHH Pulp and Paper for their continued support for these initiatives. Without their support, it would be very difficult to produce events of this quality.