Time to change forestry’s business model

COLUMN

Sustainable plantation forestry can deliver enormous social impact for regions like the East Coast. Key word — “sustainable”.

A business model where death, serious injury, whanau heartbreak and community agitation, even outrage, are ongoing factors of production, is unsustainable.

From a strategist’s perspective, the pathway forward is to inspire a shared vision between Government, industry and communities.

My vision for New Zealand’s forestry sector is a world where competent and productive workers are doing safe and sustainable work for profitable companies. In that world, deaths and serious injuries are a thing of the past.

Am I dreaming? Yes. Can that dream become a reality? Yes! The key is stakeholders putting their trust in my thinking, because let’s face the facts, other ways of thinking that have been given a chance are not working.

During the industry’s 2013 safety crisis, I sent the New Zealand Forest Owners Association my Manaia Safer Logging Strategy 2014 – 2016. In my strategy, I say: “The old way of thinking is killing people . . . It is new thinking that leads us to doing things differently. By doing things differently, we create change.”

The strategy wasn’t supported. The NZFOA didn’t put their trust in my thinking. Fair enough — who is Henry Koia? Instead, the industry opted for an independent safety review process which produced a fundamentally-flawed report, given its critical omission to include “compliance capability building” in its Agenda for Change.

In my thinking, the two issues that need to be addressed are skills and safety. These are what I call “inhibitors to sustainability” as they are things that will inhibit sustainability if neglected. The skills and safety inhibitors are correlated. You cannot bring an end to serious injuries by addressing one and neglecting the other. A skills shortage elevates safety risk. A poor safety record impacts adversely on skills recruitment. The problem in the skills space is that the industry’s current workforce management model is failing to reconcile skills demand and supply imbalance in line with skills demand and supply forecasting.

The solution is to transition the whole industry to a new model designed to balance the skills demand and supply scales. The problem in the safety space is that forestry contractors lack the capability to comply with law designed to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces. I have the data that supports that position. Complying with bits of the law, does not cut the mustard.

The solution is to build the compliance capability of forestry contractors through innovation in compliance enabling systems, while ensuring someone competent in compliance co-ordination is overseeing every harvesting operation.

Against that backdrop, the person best placed to bring an end to forestry deaths and serious injuries is not the politician; the Forest Industry Safety Council; the expert safety consultant; the contractor; the crew foreman; the crew health and safety co-ordinator; the crew safety rep; the union guy; or the local WorkSafe inspector; but Joe. Joe is your competent, clear-minded and well-equipped forestry worker who is always vigilant about his own safety on the job, and the safety of his workmates. Joe has the health and safety capabilities required to stay injury-free for as long as he remains exposed to forestry hazards. This is because Joe has the means, motive and opportunity to participate in the effective management of the risks associated with that exposure. Men like Joe are not born, they are made. Collaboration at all levels, innovation in compliance enabling systems, and goal-oriented education and training, are the key to their making.

The solution that will move the industry towards the Forest Industry Safety Council’s achievable target of zero fatalities and serious harm is therefore threefold. First, key stakeholders must collaborate urgently to support Train Me Quality Services in piloting the National Network of ManaiaSAFE Forestry Schools training model. No novice should be recruited to a tree harvesting frontline job role unless the novice and their family can be assured they will be trained and mentored on how to perform their jobs safely and productively by experienced trainers, in a fully health and safety-compliant learning environment that resembles the real thing, with no commercially-driven production pressure, before being released to the charge of a forestry contractor. The national network will allow that assurance to be given.

Second, we need to build the compliance capability of forestry contractors so they have the capability to fully comply with law designed to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces.

Lastly, we need a new forestry health and safety compliance co-ordination qualification admitted to our national qualifications framework, so there is someone overseeing every logging site who has the capability to co-ordinate all activities required by health and safety law.

Over four years ago, the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety told us that “all injuries and deaths in New Zealand workplaces are preventable, and any death in a workplace is unacceptable”. It’s time to stop accepting the unacceptable and change the forestry business model to one that is sustainable. It’s time to trust and invest in my way of thinking.

Sustainable plantation forestry can deliver enormous social impact for regions like the East Coast. Key word — “sustainable”.

A business model where death, serious injury, whanau heartbreak and community agitation, even outrage, are ongoing factors of production, is unsustainable.

From a strategist’s perspective, the pathway forward is to inspire a shared vision between Government, industry and communities.

My vision for New Zealand’s forestry sector is a world where competent and productive workers are doing safe and sustainable work for profitable companies. In that world, deaths and serious injuries are a thing of the past.

Am I dreaming? Yes. Can that dream become a reality? Yes! The key is stakeholders putting their trust in my thinking, because let’s face the facts, other ways of thinking that have been given a chance are not working.

During the industry’s 2013 safety crisis, I sent the New Zealand Forest Owners Association my Manaia Safer Logging Strategy 2014 – 2016. In my strategy, I say: “The old way of thinking is killing people . . . It is new thinking that leads us to doing things differently. By doing things differently, we create change.”

The strategy wasn’t supported. The NZFOA didn’t put their trust in my thinking. Fair enough — who is Henry Koia? Instead, the industry opted for an independent safety review process which produced a fundamentally-flawed report, given its critical omission to include “compliance capability building” in its Agenda for Change.

In my thinking, the two issues that need to be addressed are skills and safety. These are what I call “inhibitors to sustainability” as they are things that will inhibit sustainability if neglected. The skills and safety inhibitors are correlated. You cannot bring an end to serious injuries by addressing one and neglecting the other. A skills shortage elevates safety risk. A poor safety record impacts adversely on skills recruitment. The problem in the skills space is that the industry’s current workforce management model is failing to reconcile skills demand and supply imbalance in line with skills demand and supply forecasting.

The solution is to transition the whole industry to a new model designed to balance the skills demand and supply scales. The problem in the safety space is that forestry contractors lack the capability to comply with law designed to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces. I have the data that supports that position. Complying with bits of the law, does not cut the mustard.

The solution is to build the compliance capability of forestry contractors through innovation in compliance enabling systems, while ensuring someone competent in compliance co-ordination is overseeing every harvesting operation.

Against that backdrop, the person best placed to bring an end to forestry deaths and serious injuries is not the politician; the Forest Industry Safety Council; the expert safety consultant; the contractor; the crew foreman; the crew health and safety co-ordinator; the crew safety rep; the union guy; or the local WorkSafe inspector; but Joe. Joe is your competent, clear-minded and well-equipped forestry worker who is always vigilant about his own safety on the job, and the safety of his workmates. Joe has the health and safety capabilities required to stay injury-free for as long as he remains exposed to forestry hazards. This is because Joe has the means, motive and opportunity to participate in the effective management of the risks associated with that exposure. Men like Joe are not born, they are made. Collaboration at all levels, innovation in compliance enabling systems, and goal-oriented education and training, are the key to their making.

The solution that will move the industry towards the Forest Industry Safety Council’s achievable target of zero fatalities and serious harm is therefore threefold. First, key stakeholders must collaborate urgently to support Train Me Quality Services in piloting the National Network of ManaiaSAFE Forestry Schools training model. No novice should be recruited to a tree harvesting frontline job role unless the novice and their family can be assured they will be trained and mentored on how to perform their jobs safely and productively by experienced trainers, in a fully health and safety-compliant learning environment that resembles the real thing, with no commercially-driven production pressure, before being released to the charge of a forestry contractor. The national network will allow that assurance to be given.

Second, we need to build the compliance capability of forestry contractors so they have the capability to fully comply with law designed to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces.

Lastly, we need a new forestry health and safety compliance co-ordination qualification admitted to our national qualifications framework, so there is someone overseeing every logging site who has the capability to co-ordinate all activities required by health and safety law.

Over four years ago, the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety told us that “all injuries and deaths in New Zealand workplaces are preventable, and any death in a workplace is unacceptable”. It’s time to stop accepting the unacceptable and change the forestry business model to one that is sustainable. It’s time to trust and invest in my way of thinking.

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