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Real Progress Made on Improving Safety in Forestry

Accidents and injury cause measurable loss to investors and business and immeasurable loss to individuals and their families. Regrettably the accident and injury rates in the forestry sector are relatively high. But despite forestry being a hazardous occupation, it doesn't mean we have to accept these statistics; there is plenty of room to improve.

In the past few years, Nic Steens, PF Olsen's Health and Safety and Quality manager, has taken a leadership position within PF Olsen, and also within the forestry sector. Recently, PF Olsen's commitment to Health and Safety was recognised in an article by NZ Logger (see here). By being pro-active and taking a leadership role, PF Olsen is finding that it can have a positive impact on safety, and assist in making sure that the people working in and around the forests get to return safety to their homes each day.

Peter Clark, PF Olsen's CEO, is also "walking the talk". Peter is an active member of the Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum comprising more than 100 of the country's top business leaders (click here for more about the Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum). As part of the Forum, members signed a pledge to take personal responsibility to making their businesses Zero Harm Workplaces. (Peter Clark's pledge can be viewed here). "Workplace deaths and injuries cost New Zealand about $16 billion per year, which is why safety and productivity go hand in glove. They are also extremely distressing, not least to workers' families. Creating a safe workplace is a vital part of being a good manager so it made good sense to sign the pledge", says Peter Clark.

Whilst it is not always possible to see immediate and direct positive outcomes from Health and Safety initiatives, it is heartening to see improvement in the safety statistics. An article in NZ Logger in their September 2010 edition (see here) reports that new moderate or serious forestry injury claims have reduced by 28% over the past five years.

So why is all this important to the forest owner? The reasons are many and varied:

  • A moral obligation to minimise accident and injury in your forest or woodlot.
  • A legal obligation to engage suitably qualified and experienced people in forestry and harvesting operations.
  • Lower accident and injury rates will lower costs and reduce disruptions to operations. This means more efficient work and higher stumpage for forest owners.