29 January 2014
An independent panel is to conduct a major review into the high number of serious and fatal injuries in the forest industry.
The panel members are business leader George Adams, employment health and safety lawyer Hazel Armstrong and business safety specialist Mike Cosman. Their appointment and their terms of reference have been endorsed by forest industry organisations, ACC, relevant government agencies, the NZ Council of Trade Unions and the Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum.
The review, which is expected to take up to six months to complete, is being funded by the Forest Owners, Forest Industry Contractors and Farm Forestry Associations, with administrative support and other resources provided by the government's health and safety regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand.
Forest Owners past-president Bill McCallum says the forest industry makes an important contribution to New Zealand, providing jobs, export earnings and helping to lift economic growth.
"But the current rate of serious injury and death is simply not acceptable or sustainable. We are committed to creating an industry where all our people go home safely at the end of each day, and we are hopeful that the independent panel will shine a light on practical solutions to help us achieve this."
He says it has taken time to find the right panellists, shepherd vital stakeholder support and agree on the wide ranging and comprehensive terms of reference, but the foundations are now in place for what will be a very important review.
"The panel's job is to uncover the underlying factors that are resulting in workers being harmed and to recommend practical measures to significantly improve the situation.
"How it goes about this is up to the panellists, but they will use the structure adopted by the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety for making their recommendations. Most of the Taskforce's recommendations have been adopted by the government and their report provides a template that is understood and widely supported."
Mr McCallum says no aspect of the industry's operations is out of bounds.
"Panel members can talk to anyone and seek whatever expert advice and analysis they need. We are asking all employers and workers in the industry to give them their full co-operation. Individuals who want to have an input are strongly encouraged to do so.
"They will be looking at our workplace cultures, our existing safety programmes and training, the activities of Worksafe NZ and ACC, worker involvement and engagement, and the unique structure of the industry, with its reliance on contractors to do most harvesting."
The panel will have its first meeting on 14 February in Wellington.
The following organisations were consulted in the development of the inquiry's terms of reference and on the appointment of the inquiry panel:
Accident Compensation Corporation
WorkSafe New Zealand / Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment
Ministry for Primary Industries
Business Leaders Health and Safety Forum
Competenz (forest industries ITO)
Council of Trade Unions
Forest Industry Contractors Association
Farm Forestry Association
Forest Owners Association
For more information, please ring FOA president Paul Nicholls, Tel 09 357 9119 or 027 595 8708