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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters



Safeguard Magazine

Comment—Certification lessons

Setting up a certification scheme for forestry contractors wasn’t straightforward. FIONA EWING offers up some lessons for any other sector contemplating something similar.

Our experience is that the process can be challenging, sometimes frustrating, and definitely time-consuming. But for us it was also hugely rewarding, not only in terms of the result, but also for the way it brought industry participants together to focus on our common goal of lifting professional standards and keeping people safe.

Safetree Contractor Certification was launched late last year. It provides forestry with an industry-standardised assessment of a contractor’s suitability to work. To become certified, contractors complete an online assessment and a field audit. The independent auditor looks at things like management of critical risks, leadership and engagement, and employment conditions.

Certified contractors go onto a searchable register on the safetree.nz website. They pay an annual subscription fee of $695 and the cost of the two-yearly audit (about $800-$1000 per crew). As at the middle of July, 34 contractors had achieved certification and another 157 were going through the process. The scheme took about 18 months to put in place and was developed by FISC with industry input.

LESSON 1: CONFIRM YOUR MANDATE

Having a mandate from the industry to undertake this project was really important to our success. This mandate came from the 2014 Independent Forestry Safety Review, which recommended a certification scheme for contractors, and the creation of FISC to lead harm prevention efforts in forestry.

LESSON 2: BUILD ON WHAT ALREADY EXISTS

Before starting we looked at what was already out there that we could use. How were contractors currently evaluated? What resources already existed that we could build on? Building on what already existed was not only more efficient, it helped build credibility with the industry.

LESSON 3: IDENTIFY WHO IS ESSENTIAL TO SUCCESS, AND INVOLVE THEM

We identified who we needed to work with and made sure we involved them. This included setting up a reference group of industry participants with a broad range of views, including some sceptics.

We also consulted directly with specific industry groups. Getting input from a broad range of groups was really important to our success because it helped us identify potential pitfalls early on.

LESSON 4: AGREE WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE BUT BE FLEXIBLE

It’s a no brainer that on a project like this you need a clear picture of what success looks like. But that’s not enough. As you work through the project you’ll find barriers to success. So, you need to be pragmatic and adaptable to overcome these barriers.

LESSON 5: TEST, TEST, TEST – AND USE THE FEEDBACK

It’s essential to repeatedly test your offering and use the feedback to make improvements. Every objection or negative comment is an opportunity to improve – don’t let these opportunities pass by.

We visited people who had resisted the direction we were going in so we could hear them in person. Every time we understood the context better and came up with better solutions.

Your biggest objectors can become your biggest supporters if they are given the chance to be heard and to influence.

LESSON 6: DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHARGE

We deliberately designed this as a user-pays scheme. People put more value on things they pay for than on things that are free. Also, certification is about forestry becoming more professional and putting a value on good health and safety.

LESSON 7: GET INDUSTRY TO PROMOTE THE SCHEME

FISC can say what it likes about the value of certification, but contractors are far more likely to be influenced by one of their peers. With that in mind, we’ve used contractors to talk about the initiative at events and in our other publicity. We’re also partnering with industry groups like the Forest Industry Contractors Association.

Our experience is that face-to-face contact is the best way to get contractors involved, so we’re doing another round of regional workshops this year to talk about certification, as well as other work.

WAS IT WORTH IT?

I believe the Safetree Contractor Certification initiative has the potential to lift standards and professionalism in forestry and to get companies thinking differently about safety. But certification will only achieve its full potential if it is supported right across the industry.

This is a user-pays initiative, so contractors need to value this investment in health and safety. Forest owners and managers also need to recognise contractors who make this investment.

FIONA EWING is national safety director with the Forest Industry Safety Council.

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