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Poto Williams – Forestry Safety

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, June 14th, 2014 - 23 comments
Categories: health and safety, labour, workers' rights - Tags:

A guest post from Poto Williams, Labour’s MP for Christchurch East

I am attending the Independent Forestry Safety Review consultation and am lucky enough to participate with forest owners, forest managers, contractors and government officials to discuss the factors influencing Health and. Safety in the Forestry Sector.

There is a series of meetings around the country in seven different locations seeking to engage not just the owners and contractors, but the men and women engaged in the work in the bush.

This about our appalling safety statistics in New Zealand which saw 925 serious incidents last year and nearly a dozen people losing their life. Twelve families who waved their loved ones off in the morning did not see them return at the end of the day.

We are discussing a range of topics including safe working environments, safe work practices and training. By far the topic that has had the most discussion is training. There have been several issues raised about the quality of training including the lack of consistency, the lack of funding, the emphasis on assessment and the lack of local skills based education.

Concerns about the lack of consistency of training are hugely worrying and some present have talked about the Logging Forestry Industry training board days, where the industry and the experts within it were very engaged in the development and delivery of training. They are very vocal on the quality of training and the standards of asessments and that assessments are funded but training is not. “NZQA doesn’t cut it” and “where is the government responsibility in this” are a couple of quotes from participants.

Forest owners are putting money into the training spend through levies but more examination of the spend needs to occur so that we are targeting the right areas such as forest engineering. The group also talked about overseas models which were promoted in the mid 2000’s and the comment has been made that we have missed a huge opportunity.

The participants were keen to discuss working convictions, how travel time impacts on their workers and how for some roles there should be a maximum number of hours workers can work safely each day.

We have also discussed standardisation of personal protection equipment, improved hazard mapping and more open dialogue when accidents occur so that the loggers can get the benefits of the learnings when incidents and near misses occur.

It’s been great learning for me and I will be passing w learnings on to my colleagues.


23 comments on “Poto Williams – Forestry Safety”

  1. cricklewood 1

    Nzqa standards have been a disaster for the primary based industry in a variety of ways many tickets have become little more than a box ticking exercise rather than a time earned qualification. For example I obtained a chainsaw qualification and felling ticket on a 6 hr course felling a 4m tall seedling pine.

    I firmly believe these sorts of qualifications need to have some sort of hours based component and ongoing assessment before completion.

  2. Karen 2

    It isn’t just about training. One of the big problems is the rate of pay is so low that loggers work really long hours and often continue working in bad weather just so they can earn a living wage. The ‘living’ part of this is a bad a joke in the circumstances. Contractors compete with each other to provide the lowest price to the Forest Owners, who then blame the contractors when there inevitably are accidents.
    There needs to be legislated limits on hours worked and a minimum pay rate that reflects the dangerous and intermittent nature of the work as well as the provision of safety gear and adequate training.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Agreed Karen. Safety would improve if the need to work all sorts of hours lessened.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        In terms of too long hours worked – it’s an absurdity given that so many people in our society have too little employment, and some people are working so long and so hard that they are going to early graves.

        This was one aspect of why we had penal rates for those doing more than 40 hrs a week.

        • Tracey

          Exactly, not having to pay time and a half and double time has made employers richer and workers fatigues

      • And the simplt answer to all that is a return to compulsory unionism/
        All pay. all benfit ,Union inspectors into all work- sites . Unfortunatly the Tories fight tooth and nail such a move. plus “warning”their employese the consequences of joining a union.

    • RedLogix 2.2

      Or as one senior H&S officer put it to me once – contracting out rarely has anything much to do with reducing costs – it’s mostly about transferring risk off the books.

    • cricklewood 2.3

      Defiantly agree but I think the two go hand in hand by making the qualification so easy and quick to obtain it has little inherent value. A contract holder can have any worker replaced with someone who has done a very basic course where as if the qualification was stricter and hours based qualified experienced staff would be in a much better negotiating position knowing that they cant be replaced in an instant.
      If the qualification was strong and we had legislation meaning that all staff had to be qualified or under the supervision of a qualified person during the training period I think conditions would improve.
      I also believe due to the lack of training there are people in the bush making decisions they are Ill equipped to make at the best of times let alone under heavy fatigue I doubt the problem will be fixed without tackling both sides.

      • Zeroque 2.3.1

        Yeah I agree CW. Even well trained workers who are fatigued will make more mistakes that those who are fresh. There’s so much that can go wrong with felling, let alone the rest of the forestry operation. I recall when I did my felling cert during the practical there was some stuff that I didn’t expect would happen that did. And I can well imagine that if a worker was tired they could either not notice stuff or take a shortcut, such as try to sort out a hang-up themselves rather than getting a machine to assist.

  3. dimebag russell 3

    +1 Karen.
    You nailed it.

  4. Tracey 4

    One problem is some business owners and shareholders want govt out of business, want less red tape but also want taxpayers to pay to train their workers in safety. One of the first things to go to preserve profits for shareholders or high drawings in private companies is the “cost” of safety.

    Self regulation doesnt work. Lets get a fund going, paid into by companies, like a fidelity fund, to assist workers and families in the event of an accident. In conjunction with acc, but not solely taxpayer funded an education programme. And finally ibspectors. Snap visits, no announcements ahead of timexand a whistleblower 0800 line.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      Every corporation wants to be a monopoly with its costs borne by the public, free resources from the commons, and government regulation and taxation nowhere to be seen.

  5. bad12 5

    Training, i have worked a little in forestry, admittedly in the early 1990’s, on a contract secured from a Regional Council, the amount of ”training” zero,

    The amount of concern about training from the particular Regional Council from which we as a work trust gained the contract, zero,

    In fact, during the negotiations we were directly told by the Regional Councils Rep that we wouldn’t be making any ‘profit’ from them which in English said that their calculation said that it would take X amount of days to prune and thin this particular forest and that is what we would be paid and the days that it rained were ”our problem”

    At the end of the contract of course this left us with the delight of working gut busting hours doing gut busting work for less than the dole,

    Training, as i said we had none, our previous use of chainsaws and our common sense were it and as ‘we’ as the workers decided ‘when’ and in what conditions the work was carried out in there were NO accidents,

    i would dare suggest that the forestry contractors in their new guise as profit makers for the ticket clippers further up the money tree need as much if not more ”training” than the actual workforce having developed a certain belief that were it left to the workes themselves to decide, not many of them would engage in work that at certain times in certain conditions would be likely to kill them,

    Poto will have to forgive me if i am in error here, BUT, this post it smacks of the finger being pointed directly at the workers in the forest as being directly responsible for their own injuries and deaths,

    the workers in the forest DO what the boss tells them to do, otherwise they would no longer be workers,

    The boss in the forest DOES what the next boss in the ticket clipping food chain tells Him or Her to do otherwise the ticket clippers will simply find another who is more willing,

    Criminalize the forest owners for ALL injury or death that occurs in their forest and the toll of what is tantamount to murder or a trail of gang violence causing injury might just stop…

    • bad12 5.1

      Further to this is my belief that where an industry has been designated as ”hazardous” ALL those working within that hazard should be unionized,(or figure out how to change the legislation where a worker is protected from being sacked because of a refusal to work because of a perceived hazard),

      Of course the problem with ”figuring” out such a complexity in Law will be that while that is occurring, employers will simply be ”figuring” a way round it,

      It is obvious that the extra ‘policing’ of the forest via MBIE staff has slowed the trail of human destruction and having a dedicated staff continually charged with viewing and prosecuting employment practices on site is a necessity,

      The death in the forest at Pongaroa being one where it is obvious the employer was not interested in the slightest of safety measures having failed to even file the required notice that the work was being carried out…

    • BM 5.2

      NZ was a completely different country 20-25 years ago.

      You’re experiences were similar to mine for what was considered work safety/training but thankfully that type of thinking just doesn’t exist these days.

      No boss/business owner wants staff getting injured/killed on the job, apart from the loss of a work colleague/mate the pain,stress and monetary costs inflicted upon them by government is eye watering.

      • Mike the Savage One 5.2.1

        So bring in mandatory rules to safeguard standards, and the unions must play a role, whether you like it or not, dear BM!

      • Tracey 5.2.2

        You mean like the bosses at pike river?

      • Tracey 5.2.3

        You have nothing factual to base that on. Look at tge number of workplace deaths per year in comparisson to murders… Which gets the publicity and hand wringing from press, public and politicians.

        Employers dont actively seek death but wilfully putting little or nothing into training ans safety courts it1994 ..
        1995 80.0
        1996 80.7
        1997 70.3
        1998 62.0
        1999 52.7
        2000 52.3
        2001 65.0
        2002 81.0
        2003 91.0
        2004 85.7
        2005 90.0
        2006 88.3
        2007 87.3
        2008 93.0
        2009 P 102.3

      • Tracey 5.2.4

        Could you outline the eye watering costs inflicted on an employer who has an employee die from a workplace accident?

        You mightbe interested in this report comparing nz to other countries


    • cricklewood 5.3

      As far as I can tell there has in the last year or so only one case where the feller has been at fault due to the fact he was trying to fell multiple trees in domino fashion and it went bad.
      Others were due to lack of supervision or experience.
      Its worth noting that “Common sense” in terms of farm type machinery etc is been lost and often many these days have very little idea or experience around chainsaws etc.
      I do agree that block owners should be liable for serious harm where they haven’t demonstrably ensured their contractor of choice has taken all steps regarding h & s and this should include weather restrictions etc it is probably the fastest way to see significant change.
      The other factors is terrain some of the stuff felled now and up coming is in almost impossible conditions I planted out the back of Weber on slopes that were barely traversable they are due to harvest how they could be done safely is beyond me.

  6. Mike the Savage One 6

    Poto, you are one of a few Labour candidates that give me some hope! Get some more heart and courage from your good work so far, overcome your reservation, you have much to offer, and take a firm stand on this, and other issues, thank you! You are valued and needed!

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