Independent Forestry Safety Review recommends Action Plan to improve safety

By Te Kāea

The Independent Forestry Safety Review has recommended a three year action plan to drive improvements in the forestry sector.

The Safety review released today recommends that WorkSafe New Zealand convene a Forestry Leadership Action Group comprised of government, industry workers and their representatives to oversee the delivery of a Forestry Sector Health and Safety Action Plan.

The report highlighted that forestry was the most dangerous industry in New Zealand to work in.  Since 2008, 32 lives have been lost in the forest block and the injury rate is double that of any other industry in the country.

The Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety , Michael Woodhouse says, “The Government supports the findings of this review and acknowledges everyone who played a role in this critically important work. The safety record of the forestry sector is not acceptable and Government agencies are committed to working in partnership with industry to build a safe, sustainable and professional forestry sector.”

Also according to the General Secretary of FIRST Union, Robert Reid says, the report is "a wake up call for all stakeholders in the forest industry, including unions."

"The Forest Safety report pulls no punches and puts the responsibility on all forestry stakeholders, including workers and unions to work together to bring a sea change of safety improvements in the industry."

The review which was announced in January this year was implemented to identify likely causes and contributing factors to the high rate of serious injuries and fatalities in the New Zealand Forestry sector.

The review process involved hearing from 540 forestry sector stakeholders, it received 111 submissions on the consultation document and 330 Forestry workers completed surveys. The review panel highlighted that some of those involved were workers who had been injured and family members of people killed in the sector.

Some of the issues identified in the review by participants, was a lack of leadership to drive a safety culture; gaps in standards ensuring safe work and safe workplaces and inadequate training and supervision for workers. There was also widespread support for WorkSafe New Zealand increasing its compliance and enforcement visits.

According to the review panel “the first action that needs to be undertaken is the development of a Safety Charter and an agreement by leaders across the industry to meet the mandatory health and safety and employment standards already in place.”

The report also highlights, “In the 21st century being unable to achieve these basics is simply not acceptable and has a negative impact on the culture of a workplace and the ability to work safely.  It sends terrible signals to workers about how they are valued and the priorities of their employers.  It also has a direct impact on safe working practices.”

According to the report the panel’s vision is for a safe, sustainable and professional forestry sector by 2017, achieved in partnership by government, industry and workers.

In April last year, Te Kāea reporter Harata Brown attended a memorial for Forestry Workers run by the Council of Trade Unions who died on the job and at that event family members and workers highlighted how important an inquiry into the industry was and the devastating impact a perceived lack of focus on safety had on workers and their families. 

Tonight Te Kāea reporter Taroi Black will have more details on the report release and the implications of it at 5:30 and 7:00pm with subtitles.