Clarky's Comment - March 2014, Independent Forestry Safety Review

Independent Forestry Safety Review

I recently attended the first of a series of stakeholder workshops being run around the country by the newly formed Independent Forestry Safety Review Panel. While well-run and exposing a wide range of issues that are potentially impacting on the safety performance of the sector through the collective wisdom and experience of the 40 attendees, it is clear to me that the group that is both most exposed to hazards, and in the best position to observe and comment on the underlying causes of hazard exposure or unsafe behavior are the most difficult group for the Panel to access and learn from. That is the contractors and employees of contractors.

The Review Panel findings and recommendations will only have credibility if they are fact and evidence-based. It is therefore critical to have discussions with a wide sample of contractors and workers, from both corporate forestry and smaller farm woodlot operations.

New Zealand Forest Owners Association has committed significant time and financial resources to this review. The Association members want the review to be effective in coming up with practical recommendations that will improve the safety of forestry work.

If you are a contractor, a contractor's employee or in a position to assist with getting the views of contractors and workers in front of the Review Panel I encourage you to do so. To put some structure around your thoughts I suggest you consider the safety issues in the same terms that the Panel challenged us to do at the workshop i.e. Workplace, People, Industry Organisation and Regulatory Environment. The Panel is thinking about whether there is anything:

  • about forest workplaces, site layout and operation that contribute to harm and fatalities,
  • about people working in the forests; their culture, their training, their communication skills, their wellbeing related to nutrition and hydration, fitness, fatigue, protective gear that contribute to harm and fatalities,
  • about the organisation of the forestry sector including leadership and management, supply lines and contracting arrangements and worker participation that contribute to harm and fatalities, and
  • the regulators (that is the Government) can do to clarify expectations and advice in law, regulations, codes or guidance materials that could help prevent harm and fatalities.

The Panel also wants to hear if people have identified other things that could help reduce serious harm and prevent people dying.

You can contact the Review Panel by e-mail: info@ifsr.co.nz, or by phoning the Review Secretariat, Stephanie Coutts Ph 021 204 3632.

More information on the Independent Forestry Safety Review can be found at: www.ifsr.co.nz. The website will be updated as the Review progresses.