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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Not out of the woods yet

Not out of the woods yet
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New Zealand

Forestry inspectors have seen big improvements in safety culture over recent years, but there are still some worrying trends, WorkSafe’s deputy GM of assessments told the conference.

Although the serious injury rate has fallen significantly since 2013, the past year has seen it increase by almost 11 percent.

Jo-Ann Pugh said the fact that this rise, and the previous steep fall, both show a strong correlation with the level of WorkSafe’s involvement, indicates the industry as a whole is not yet taking responsibility for managing its own risks.

“In 2013-14, when we got out there and visited every single contractor, there was quite a dramatic impact. But when we started to change tack a bit and not be so forceful, the foot seemed to slightly come off the health and safety gas pedal at industry level.

“This shows industry still has a heavy reliance on the regulator to manage its risks, but we want to transfer some of that reliance back to you, so the change can be sustained.”

However there is a lot of good news coming out of the forests, said Pugh, with inspectors finding people at every level of the industry more willing to take a stand on health and safety matters, and refuse to deal with “cowboy” operators.

“Our inspectors are also seeing better collaboration between forest managers and contractors, drug and alcohol abuse is being actively addressed, and I’m really encouraged by the emergence of health and safety reps in the larger and medium-sized crews.”

More worryingly, there is still evidence of a tick-box approach to H&S management in some organisations, she said.

“We put our assessment forms on the website and suddenly we were going to sites and not finding any of the things on the forms. Everything on the checklist was being managed because you knew what we were looking for – but fiddling the checklist so everything looks hunky-dory for the inspector is not managing health and safety.”

Such attempts to evade WorkSafe scrutiny are clear evidence that an organisation has problems, she said, “and the industry is too small to evade us forever.”

The best preparation for an inspector’s visit, she said, was to ask yourself and your team two key questions at the start of each day: ‘What is the risk here?’, and ‘How are we going to manage it?’

“These are the first questions our team will be asking when it arrives on the site, so it’s critical you ask them of yourself. Good health and safety in the forest is about good conversations on the hill. What’s changed since yesterday? And how does that change our approach?

“You know your business, so talk it through with your people.”

In the wake of extensive research conducted last year, WorkSafe is now focusing on three new areas within the industry – worker engagement and participation, work-related health, and small-scale forestry operations. Initiatives in these areas will be in addition to WorkSafe’s existing forestry focuses, Pugh said.



People Mentioned:
Jo-Ann Pugh
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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