Ewing takes forest safety helm

1 December 2015

Getting people at all levels of the forest industry to think differently about how to create safe outcomes when working in a dynamic environment is a key objective of the new Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC).

"Our overall aim is zero fatalities and zero harm. It's an ambitious target, but we owe it to those who work in our forests and to improve the reputation of the industry," says National Safety Director Fiona Ewing.

She says the council is successfully pulling together a work programme to address the findings of the Independent Forestry Safety Review. Among these are initiatives that were already underway before she took the helm of FISC two months ago, including Safetree™, which will be an important communication platform for the council; and IRIS, the incident database which was set up and operated for many years by the Forest Owners Association.

"There are lots of examples of existing good practice and FISC will evaluate and share these and other initiatives more broadly across the sector," Ms Ewing says.

"It is an exciting prospect. FISC is the first example of a body representing employers, government and workers to be given a mandate to lead health and safety across an entire industry."

Most FISC initiatives will be developed by the operational advisory group (OAG) and fine-tuned by technical advisory groups (TAGs), made up of people from across the industry with relevant expertise. The TAGs cover legislative reform, competency, performance management, leadership and communications. Ms Ewing encourages people with skills in these areas to put their names forward as candidates for TAG membership.

Effective communications will be crucial to the success of FISC.

"Feedback on Safetree™ initiatives so far have been positive, from both contractors and crew members, through to forest owners, ACC and Worksafe NZ. These initiatives include stories and messages from workplace 'heroes' communicated on Safetree™, via YouTube and other social media; channels that are widely used in the crew environment," says Ms Ewing.

"Of course others prefer more traditional forms of communication. The important thing is that we engage with everyone from workers to forest owners in ways that work for them."

FISC is chaired by Dame Alison Paterson. The board is made up of representatives of forest owners, farm foresters, forest contractors, workers, unions, Worksafe NZ and ACC.

Source: FISC media release. For more information, contact Fiona Ewing, tel 027 502 8065