The Forest Owners Association welcomes the boost in government funding and support for workplace health and safety improvement.
The industry’s health and safety committee chair Sheldon Drummond says the announcement by labour minister Kate Wilkinson of $37 million in extra funding couldn’t have come at a better time.
He says a safety culture initiative now underway in the sector is already being helped by the government’s focus on improved workplace safety, with the Department of Labour focussing its efforts on five priority sectors including forestry.
“Since the mid-1990s we have succeeded in reducing our accident and fatality rates, despite a bigger log harvest, much of it in more difficult terrain than in the past,” Mr Drummond says.
“But since the mid-2000s, accident and fatality rates have leveled out. It is our firm belief and absolute commitment that we can do better. So, hand-in-hand with ACC and Department of Labour, we are working to embed a safety culture in our forests.
“We have nearly finished a complete revision of the forest operations code of practice, introduced certification for some high-risk jobs and will be hiring a safety expert to roll all this out.”
The forest industry’s drug and alcohol-free workplace policy is innovative and bold and has been widely adopted by forest owners and contractors, he says.
“Initiatives like these are not easy to implement, but they have massively improved our workforce’s performance and wellbeing. Also the long-term benefits greatly outweigh the short-term costs.”
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