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Forestry industry must act as one to end shameful trends

Press Release – Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum

The forestry industry must commit to implementing an action plan for reducing the industrys shamefully high injury rate which means forestry workers are 15 times more likely to die on the job, the Business Leaders Health and Safety …Forestry industry must act as one to end shameful trend of injury and death in the bush
“The forestry industry must commit to implementing an action plan for reducing the industry’s shamefully high injury rate – which means forestry workers are 15 times more likely to die on the job,” the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum says.
Today’s report from the industry-sponsored Independent Forestry Safety Review provides a comprehensive plan to make forestry safer, Forum Executive Director Julian Hughes says.
“This is an excellent report. But it will only make a difference if the proposed changes are implemented by all industry players quickly – including forest owners, managers, contractors, workers and the regulator, WorkSafe,” Julian says.
The report paints a bleak picture of industry’s performance on safety. “Forestry is the most dangerous sector to work in by far. The injury rate is double that of other industries and the fatality rate is 15 times the rate for all industries.”
Unsurprisingly, the report found no single “silver bullet” to solve the industry’s problems. Rather, it recommends a series of industry-wide initiatives. These start with a much stronger and more active commitment from industry leaders. “We know that active and committed leadership matters because it is the defining factor that helped bring down injury rates in other high risk industries.
“The report’s vision for a ‘safe, sustainable and professional forestry sector by 2017’ will require a significant investment of time, energy and resources by industry and government. The recommendations that outside assistance is needed to get this process started in a clear signal that the industry needs help.

“We have a saying in the Forum that safety leadership comes down to what you think about the people who work for you – how their wellbeing ranks against priorities like profits and deadlines. The injury data in this report, and some of the findings about basic welfare provisions for workers, suggests some forestry leaders don’t value their workers very highly. That has to change.”

The forestry industry relies almost totally on contractors to do the most dangerous work – and while the report does not recommend any changes to this way of working, Julian says the industry must approach this model differently. “The Forum’s work on what makes safe contracting chains in high risk industries indicates that it can be achieved. But this requires a new way of working – one where contractors are treated with the same respect and care as employees.

“When you contract out the work you can’t contract out the moral and legal obligations to keep the people doing the work safe. The new health and safety law coming into force next year is going to make that much clearer. If the industry wants to stick with a contracting model it needs to put in place best practice measures to keep contractors safe.”

This means providing contracts that do not incentivise unsafe behaviour and building relationships that support safe work.

“Serious injuries and deaths are not an inevitable consequence of work,” Julian says. “There are companies working in high risk industries in New Zealand that are achieving injury rates of close to zero. There are also examples within forestry of companies improving safety and reducing injury rates. We know it can be done but it take persistent effort and investment.”

Julian agreed with the report’s authors that the industry organisations that commissioned the review showed courage by inviting independent reviewers in to inspect their industry. “The Forum will support the industry in any way it can to implement the report’s findings.”

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