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Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Industry must lead change

Industry must lead change
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New Zealand

Positive changes in health and safety can only occur when industry as a whole spearheads the effort, the CEO of the British Columbia Forest Safety Council told a gathering of the New Zealand forest industry.

“For effective and sustainable change, industry must dictate what goals you want to achieve, and this will require full engagement from leadership at all levels,” Rob Moonen told the Forest Industry Safety Summit in Rotorua early this month. “You must be together on this because, without full engagement, you won’t achieve what you want to accomplish.”

The BCFSC, the health and safety association for forest harvesting, sawmills and pellet manufacturing in British Columbia, was set up in 2005 to address the province’s high death toll among forest workers.

Under its watch some 2700 companies have achieved safety prequalification certification, and more than 18,000 workers and 2200 fallers have been trained. As a result the average death toll has dropped from 21 a year (peaking at 34 deaths in 2005) to eight, and there has been a significant decline in serious injuries. But, Moonen said, even as things have improved there have been some major pitfalls for the organisation to overcome.

“Once the council got off the ground there was a comfort level within industry that things were being taken care of, and industry leadership started to step back.

“Licensees and tenure-holders started to place too much reliance on the certification scheme, as if it was a Kevlar vest that would keep them from harm, when in reality it’s more like a driver’s licence: it demonstrates that you can pass the test, but doesn’t say how you’ll drive on any particular day.”

With industry becoming complacent, injury rates hit a plateau in 2009, and contractors began to regard the council as doing things to them rather than for them.

“In 2013 one of our largest contractor associations passed a motion saying they didn’t want to participate in the council any more. The system was broken, and we had licensees and landowners coming to us saying ‘What do we do?’”

A series of town hall meetings gave contractors a chance to vent their frustrations and tell the council what they wanted.

“They felt that paperwork was driving the [certification] process and it didn’t represent how contractors worked in the field,” Moonen said. “The audit was seen as too compliance-based when contractors wanted it to verify competency – to ensure the faller knew how to fall a tree rather than that the company had a safe falling policy.”

As a result of the meetings the council was able to re-engage with industry, revising the certification process to focus on high-risk activities, and setting up a system whereby industry groups now drive the council’s agenda.

“We used to come up with our own work plans within the council, but we don’t do that any more. There is a wide range of industry-owned and -driven safety groups, and we now look to them to see what we should be working on.”

As a result death and injury rates are again trending downwards, and relations with the wider industry have become harmonious.

“Industry supports what it has built, so if you want to bring about change in health and safety, make sure you have the involvement of everyone – from licensees and landowners to contractors and workers. I cannot over-emphasise the point that, if you want to bring about effective change, industry needs to be together on it.”



People Mentioned:
Rob Moonen
Organisations Mentioned:
British Columbia Forest Safety Council
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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