Safety Champion September - Simon Walker S&R Logging

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S&R Logging, have an exemplary safety record so we asked Simon Walker a few illuminating questions to discover how a crew becomes the 2014 Top Crew for Safety, and the recipient of a 2015 Viking Global safety performance award. After some coaxing, Miriam from PF Olsen finally got to sit down with Simon and learn more about his approach to safety.

What motivates you in terms of safety?

“I work with my crew every day. Not only does this mean setting an example but it also reinforces an existing tremendous sense of responsibility. My business is my people.”

Simon is able to complete every task he asks of his crew, he therefore knows what is expected of everyone. He also has a curious nature and likes to know how things work. Each member of his crew can do more than one task meaning each role is backed up. They have smoko together every day - the machines stop and everyone stops, they talk to each other during lunch. If anyone wants to visit the crew they are encouraged to show up at lunchtime when Simon is free. This may not work for all crews but it does for this one. They have all been there for some time, and therefore have a shared history, those that have left have done so for valid reasons.

Simon advises “Keep who you do have good because it takes a lot of time and effort to get new people and have them skilled to the level required.”

In hindsight what do you wish you knew when you were young and green?

“When I first started there was no high Vis, no chaps, we wore a round helmet with no hearing protection, and we did not scarf in the same way."

He considers himself lucky to have worked with corporate forestry as it has helped over the years to have constant work and backup provided. Simon adds that audits are not to be feared - they give you a reality check and keep you refreshed.

What he has come to appreciate is the value of good safe systems. They have tried different systems to get here, but good systems are important. 90% of the time they go setting by setting, one skid at a time, there is a lot of pre planning done with key people. Simon and Jamie walk a new block and plan it out, during harvest nothing is done twice, movement is minimised and a machine does not go back over its tracks. While harvesting one setting they are already planning for the next.

What’s the value of good health and safety in your business?

“Safety before production. We might go under but if I can get out of the game with a good record I’ll have a clear conscience.”

There is a cost to safety but it will save money further down the chain. An incident impacts on the whole crew and it takes time to resolve. It takes time to induct new people, if they are not reliable and skilled then we are facing an uphill battle. The whole crew is engaged in health and safety - being a small crew they are vulnerable to a man down and are all aware of that.

Would you share some thoughts on your role as principal?

“If something goes wrong I’m the first person responsible, it’s my head on the block – good or bad. I’ve seen yellers go through men, they see production first.”

Having good systems in place makes the morning meeting easy because everyone knows what they are doing, attention can be paid to the differences. You have to put effort into your own and your crews training, because having skilled men is so important.

“Stick to what you know and focus on what matters.”

How do you see things going in the future?

“Mechanisation is moving fast. There is a lot of learning involved and we have a long way to go, it’s not as easy as it seems, and it puts more pressure on the crew and crew owner. All aspects of harvesting have seen an increase in the skill required for the job”

S&R have been semi mechanised for two years, Simon is currently 8 months into an 18 month goal of training 3 operators working fully mechanised. He has approached the whole issue in the same methodical and practicable way and thought through every part. Good systems help immeasurably, they have two harvesters which are rotated to even up machine wear, and this ensures that the operators can therefore step out of one machine into the other with no issue.

The goal is to do what’s required in a five day week and have the weekend off. The crew is encouraged to have out of work activities and to take personal fitness seriously. This is more so with mechanisation, as after operating a harvester for a week Simon's comment is that “your brain is fried”.

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is the automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency." - Bill Gates

The impression I get from Simon is that this guy likes going to work. He relishes the challenges of the day and enjoys the company of the people he works with. I get a sense from Simon of practical efficiency, working to create a stable and safe environment. Plenty of planning, plenty of good old fashioned hands-on involvement. It all looks so simple but simple is deceivingly hard, and it requires constant work to maintain. And Simon's results show its worth it.

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