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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Regulator Report—Collaborative code

ONA de ROOY says a revised code for safer forestry operations is a good example of collaboration in the industry sector with the highest rate of fatalities.

New Zealand’s forestry industry is an important part of our economy; it is a significant employer and is our third largest export earner. Forestry is an excellent use for otherwise unproductive land and produces a high quality, sustainable product with a myriad of uses.

The industry does however have a darker side for those who work in it. Forestry has the highest rate of fatal accidents of any New Zealand industry and has six times the ACC claims rate of other sectors. Too many forestry workers are being seriously hurt and killed and this has to change. For this reason forestry is one of the five priority sectors which the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is focusing on.

The forestry industry too has recognised that safety must be improved and has been taking active steps for the last decade to turn the situation around. Forestry workers are also central to these efforts; these are the people doing the work on the hillsides and bearing the real impact of this industry’s work toll, which means their involvement in efforts to improve safety is critical.

Everyone in the forestry sector has to work together in a coordinated and consistent way to improve the safety of forestry operations and reduce the work toll. This stretches from the bush-line to the boardroom and means forest crews, contractors, principals and unions all need to come together and focus on making sure every part of the sector is safe.

A recent step that is helping to achieve safer forests is the launch of an updated Approved Code of Practice for Forestry. This code aims to “lift the bar” for safety in all aspects of forestry operations, bring the Code up to modern standards and reflect advances in techniques and procedures. One of the main areas of focus for the updated code has been developing consistent rules around the tasks of tree felling and “breaking out” (extracting felled trees from steep hillsides). These tasks consistently account for a high number of serious harm accidents and fatalities and the code introduces standards to improve safety in critical risk areas. There is now a national standard for signalling when breaking out, whereas previously each crew developed its own signals and this could cause confusion. The code also sets out standard minimum safe retreating distances to keep workers out of danger areas. There is also now a requirement for head breaker outs to be competent and hold an NZQA Unit Standard specific to the task.

The new code has been a collaborative effort from across the sector. MBIE has led development with extensive consultation and input from all parts of the industry, from the hillside to senior management and forest owners. A review committee was also established with membership from across the sector to give expert advice and guidance and ensure the code would be practical to apply.

It is very pleasing to see the forestry industry taking ownership and stepping up to help promote the updated code with a renewed focus on health and safety. The code is a major focus at this year’s Safe Start breakfasts, an industry initiative which MBIE is very proud to support. These breakfasts take place around the country and get forestry crews together at the start of each year, in an informal setting away from the forest to focus on safe operations. MBIE’s local health and safety inspectors attend the breakfasts as they are a great – and rare – opportunity to meet and engage with the crews.

Following the breakfasts a team of MBIE and sector representatives will be travelling around the country with a road show to present the new Code and explain it to the industry. These road shows will give everyone in the industry the opportunity to meet the inspectors, MBIE managers and members of the review committee who helped develop the Code. The aim of the road shows is to set clear expectations, answer any questions and ensure the Code is well understood and applied correctly. The changes in the redeveloped code are a great catalyst for discussions about safety and making sure that crews go home to their families safe and well.

The new Approved Code of Practice will set a new standard for the forestry industry. The Government has set a target of reducing workplace injuries and deaths by at least 25% by 2020. Focusing on the areas where we are seeing the most harm, like forestry, is going to help us achieve this target and reduce the work toll.

A copy of the new Approved Code of Practice is available on the MBIE website or by calling 0800 20 90 20.

ONA DE ROOY is general manager health and safety operations with MBIE.

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