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.