Forestry seeing major changes

EDITORIAL

Safety in the forests is a matter of huge concern, as one of the nation’s most dangerous workplaces and a major employer in this district where, tragically, we have had many young men killed — three last year, of five fatalities nationwide.

The new Government wants to see improved safety measures, which in part will involve encouraging a trend already under way: mechanisation. An item on One News last night — where Minister for Workplace Safety Iain Lees-Galloway and WorkSafe boss Nicole Rosie visited a forestry site in Marlborough — said the mechanisation of tree felling nationally had gone from 23 percent to 53 percent in recent years.

Despite this, fatalities have increased in each of the past four years — from one forestry death in 2014 (after a horror year in 2013 when 10 forestry workers died). Injuries have also risen, from an average of 15 per 1000 workers in September 2014 to 18 per 1000 workers by March last year.

Mechanisation will take longer to take root here because of the region’s soft soils and steep terrain, but its use is growing.

Dan Fraser of Forest Enterprises, speaking at a safety seminar here late last year, said forest owners and managers needed to embrace the new technologies and encourage the innovations required.

“The real control is engineered systems, mechanisations, teleoperations . . . if we can adopt this strategy, accident rates will come down, the environmental footprint will reduce and forestry can be a highly-respected industry that all kinds of people will want to work in as a life career.”

More rules and audits were not the answer, he said, which was echoed by Ms Rosie: “Using what we would call administrative controls or techniques like training and paper work and just talking to people . . . they don’t work. So you need to be looking at engineering controls and mechanisations.”

It is worth noting, contrary to the One News item, that WorkSafe says agriculture remains the nation’s most dangerous industry to work in, with 124 deaths over the past six years — compared to 35 deaths in construction and 33 in forestry. Overall, 233 people were killed in their workplaces in New Zealand over the past six years.

Safety in the forests is a matter of huge concern, as one of the nation’s most dangerous workplaces and a major employer in this district where, tragically, we have had many young men killed — three last year, of five fatalities nationwide.

The new Government wants to see improved safety measures, which in part will involve encouraging a trend already under way: mechanisation. An item on One News last night — where Minister for Workplace Safety Iain Lees-Galloway and WorkSafe boss Nicole Rosie visited a forestry site in Marlborough — said the mechanisation of tree felling nationally had gone from 23 percent to 53 percent in recent years.

Despite this, fatalities have increased in each of the past four years — from one forestry death in 2014 (after a horror year in 2013 when 10 forestry workers died). Injuries have also risen, from an average of 15 per 1000 workers in September 2014 to 18 per 1000 workers by March last year.

Mechanisation will take longer to take root here because of the region’s soft soils and steep terrain, but its use is growing.

Dan Fraser of Forest Enterprises, speaking at a safety seminar here late last year, said forest owners and managers needed to embrace the new technologies and encourage the innovations required.

“The real control is engineered systems, mechanisations, teleoperations . . . if we can adopt this strategy, accident rates will come down, the environmental footprint will reduce and forestry can be a highly-respected industry that all kinds of people will want to work in as a life career.”

More rules and audits were not the answer, he said, which was echoed by Ms Rosie: “Using what we would call administrative controls or techniques like training and paper work and just talking to people . . . they don’t work. So you need to be looking at engineering controls and mechanisations.”

It is worth noting, contrary to the One News item, that WorkSafe says agriculture remains the nation’s most dangerous industry to work in, with 124 deaths over the past six years — compared to 35 deaths in construction and 33 in forestry. Overall, 233 people were killed in their workplaces in New Zealand over the past six years.

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