Safety Champion Peter Olney - Looking out for those who work in the Forest

A safe and successful workplace is created by those who are invested in it, which involves having the correct mind-set, values, and beliefs.

One of the basic tenants of workplace safety is “Don’t turn a blind eye” – in other words never ignore even the minor things that have the potential to cause harm or damage.

Peter Olney is a logging truck driver for Williams & Wilshier in Rotorua.

Mark Lawrence of Forest Distribution Ltd says “Peter lives by this tenant – if he notices something that is not right he reports it. Peter is very pro-active.”

“The fact of the matter” says Peter, “…there are those who ignore unsafe acts and conditions without flinching, others who recognise the risk yet do nothing, and then there is a group, who act. I don’t like to hear people say … ’yeah I saw that the other day’ …but then nothing got said.”

Peter became a union delegate in the engineers union at 16, and was its Health and Safety officer. He also served in the ambulance service for 12 years, first as an officer then as a superintendent.

Peter says, “Seeing the results of things going wrong, and how easily early action would have changed the outcome, changed my thinking. I quickly learnt that ignoring a small problem can make it worse, and sometimes all you need to do is something small, a double check …just in case.”

Peter’s training has helped him to understand the ‘flow-on-effect’ of a situation and the opportunity – the pathway to improvement. He also has high praise for Williams & Wilshier for their proactive approach and that they are open to ideas, and for Forest Distribution Ltd who investigate and give feedback on reports.

Another clue to why Peter is a Safety Champion is his ownership.

Peter says, "some drivers pick up their load then they are gone. I talk to the loader operator and think about the crew. If I see a crewmember walking towards the loading operation then I immediately let the loader operator know and we stop.”

“The forest is a big work place and those who work in it are a team. We all communicate and are responsible for our own and the safety of others.”

Peter is well aware that the job he does, “…has the potential to kill and if you drop your guard you could be slapped around the ears with an injury. You have to keep on thinking.”

Peter also talks of the concern that all drivers feel when there is news of a trucking incident – straight away he thinks of the driver. “If the driver has been hurt then you pray for a minor (less serious injury). The news always brings it home that there are risks in forestry. We always go out hoping for a good day but in the back of our minds we are asking ‘what if’.”

Safety Champions like Peter are always looking ahead, making improvements and thinking of others. They show care for the welfare of others. Such care is shown in the priority he places on putting in a report, his attitude and regard for the people he works with both in and outside of his business.

Peter is also concerned by complacency!

He says, “Sometimes drivers are forgetting the basics, for example they chatter on the radio. They also forget about calling their position at every road marker and remembering that not everyone in the forest has a RT in their vehicle so that drivers need to drive to the conditions.”

Peter concludes with this advice: “… The landscape of our forests has changed. For example some of the forest land has converted to farming. Now we see a number of different users on the forest roads. Our loaded logging trucks may be sharing the road with farmers, school buses filled with children and service providers who have little experience of metal roads let alone meeting up with me. I just want people to think about the risk to them and others and not ignore the little things.”

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;

For want of a horse, the rider was lost;

For want of a rider, the message was lost;

For want of the message, the battle was lost;

For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.