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2016 Top Crew Award for Safety; Blackhawk Logging Limited (50)

The Blackhawk crew are a small agile crew of six, who can usually be found working where the road finishes. Graham Black (Blackie) is the principal of the crew that is typically engaged in what we call ‘forward road lining’ – the process of opening up a harvest block and creating the corridor that the new road will sit within. It is an important role, and quite different from mainstream harvesting where the crew gets to see the entire site cleared of trees and the harvest block completed.

Graham starts by telling us about his right hand man Robin Raureti. Having Rob’s advice means a lot to Blackie, who together have a thirty-year working relationship.

“I’m not right on every subject, every day. It’s good that I can ask Rob what he reckons,” says Blackie.

If visiting, expect to be taken through a comprehensive site induction. On a recent visit the inductor’s message was made very clear to me:

“If it rains we leave immediately because the water level at that ford at the forest entrance will rise quickly … That track over there, don’t use it! You’ll be waist deep in mud before you know it.”

This is just a small part of the risk analysis for a crew used to working in ground-breaking circumstances, however, just another day in the forest for Blackhawk Logging, but vital information if you are a visitor to the site.

Blackie and I sat on the tray of the ute and talked about the business, before he got on with work and I got to observe him tree felling.

When asked the same question, “Why do you think Blackhawk won the award?

Blackie’s answer, “The Waitangi job!”

He is right that job was a factor, but as his manager says, ‘awards are won for consistency’.

During 2016, the crew worked in thirteen different harvest areas, which means they moved and setup (on average) at least every month. Adding to this sort of disruption are a number of factors making the harvesting work really complex, for example:

These thirteen harvest areas have included power lines (HT Pylons), rivers, steeper country and a high-profile public roads interface. The Waitangi Forest had all of these risks including two sets of powerlines, very steep slopes, two public roads bounding the block, high exposure to winds and all of the trees were within two-tree lengths of the above. Their work at Waitangi received commendation from the various councils and WorkSafe NZ.  

Because of the specialist felling requirement needed for these jobs, Blackie trained two tree fellers during 2016 who both received national certificates. He has also had a loader operator achieve a national certificate.

As Blackie says, “we are a safety conscious crew” but most crews are, so what nudges Blackhawk ahead?

A strong belief in training and skill development. Blackie outlined the qualifications his men have. They are all trained for more than one task, some of them are trained for every job at the site.

“I try to get them all fully trained as high as they can get, they’re keen too,” Blackie says.

When asked about absenteeism he does not seem to see that as an issue “the boys will take a day off here and there,” however, that is all in keeping with normal expectations and well planned for.

“…Four of the crew hold the level 4 National Certificate for Tree Felling and all of them are trained observers.” In regard to the experience and knowledge requirement to hold such a qualification, Blackie says, “it takes ten years before you are starting to come right as a tree feller!”

Blackie is proud of his crew, “These fellas are good, safety conscious, and it takes a long time to build that culture. They are good at speaking up, in the morning toolbox meeting they’ll bring up really good things that maybe not everyone had realised. You are only as good as your crew!” The crew also use the morning toolbox to talk about the new safety legislation and industry initiatives.

Blackie does not like being away from the site, he enjoys his job and sees no reason not to be in the thick of things. It is clear that Blackie has some safety bottom-lines! He says, “Safety is number one for me, and I think I would quit if we had a bad accident …better to take the right decisions and initiative and act safely.”

During the visit, Blackie was seen organising a meeting between his PF Olsen supervisor and the road-engineering supervisor to discuss a swamp they were approaching. It was great to see all three PCBU’s applying one of the important new principles of the new safety law – Consulting, Co-operating and Co-ordinating the work. Wiremu Ruru who is Blackhawks’ supervisor comments that Blackie will discuss a problem and find the best and safest solution!

When asked about what the future may hold the discussion turns to how things have changed for the better. Whether in regard to Drug and Alcohol testing, good systems and processes, qualifications and training or a better regard for the environment “We have changed our ways” or as Blackie often puts it “No doubt without safety there is no job”.

There is no doubt that Blackhawk are a safe and productive crew. We would like to congratulate the crew on a well-deserved win.