28 Jul 2015

New forest safety council meets

3:29 pm on 28 July 2015

The newly created Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC) is holding its first meeting today.

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Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The council was a key recommendation of the independent safety review panel that released its findings last year after investigating the industry's appalling accident record.

The council, chaired by Dame Alison Paterson, is funded jointly by forest owners and the government and includes representatives from forestry contractors and workers, farm foresters and WorkSafe New Zealand.

Fiona Ewing has just been appointed its National Safety Director.

The council's farm foresters' representative, Ian Jackson, said its job would be to put into effect the findings from the independent review.

"There was lots of recommendations within that review and the idea of the FISC is to oversee the implementation of those and make sure they become very good, concrete programmes within the forest industry, right from workers on up," he said.

"Underneath the FISC there will be a number of technical advisory groups which will actually do the nuts and bolts, the FISC itself is very much a an administrative board to ensure that things progress."

The FISC would be the glue that bound together the co-ordinated approach to safety issues in the industry, Mr Jackson said.

"A number of corporate foresters already have their own health and safety programmes and a lot of those may not be able to be improved that much, but there are a number, particularly in the small scale area, which need quite a lot of improvement, so it's a matter of getting everyone up to speed ... and it's great to have government, ACC, and WorkSafe involved in this ... they're directly funding and overseeing the thing, so it's coming at it from all angles."

Mr Jackson said there had been an increased awareness of safety in the forest industry and a significant improvement in the accident rate since 2013, when 10 forestry workers died, and the Forest Safety Council would be aiming to to keep that momentum going.

"Hopefully we have got a change of culture," he said.

"That was one of the main things within the reviews that it needs a change of culture within the forest industry, whether we've got that or not yet, I guess we've had heading up towards two years of reasonably accident and death free, working in the forests, I guess we'll have to run another year or two just to see whether we really have achieved that."