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Forest Processor Reassessed by OSH

July 1, 2004

Forest Processor Reassessed by OSH on Workplace Safety

North Island forest processor Juken Nissho Ltd (JNL) has received a safety reassessment by the Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) of the Department of Labour reflecting significant improvements following a harsh report by OSH on the company late last year.

The company’s four plants in Kaitaia, Gisborne and Masterton were audited by OSH in August 2003. Of the 697 safety improvements identified, in excess of 90% have now been completed in consultation with regional OSH inspectors.

The OSH follow-up audit in May presented last week, expresses considerable satisfaction with the changes that the company has made, noting a substantial shift in attitude towards safety at all levels within JNL, with a positive organisational culture gaining momentum.

Commenting on the findings of the latest audit, OSH Service Manager, Murray Thompson says JNL has made significant progress since the initial audit and it continues with its proactive approach to health and safety, “JNL could be an example of best practice in the industry in the future”.

“JNL has substantially dealt with the physical hazards and is now in the process of upgrading its management systems. Some of the systems issues include hazard management, machinery lockout, contractor management and matters raised on an ACC audit earlier this year, ” Mr Thompson says.

General Affairs Manager for JNL, Mike Fisher says the follow-up audit by OSH is a major step forward for the company. He acknowledges the initial audit has been “a major wake-up call”.

“We employ more than 1200 people across four processing plants and sawmills in a high risk industry, and health and safety for our workers is paramount. The OSH review has set a standard for us which so far is proving to be positive for the company,” Mr Fisher says.

Since its arrival in New Zealand in 1990, Japanese owned Juken Nissho Ltd has invested almost $900 million in forestry assets, including $480 million in its four regional manufacturing plants. Exports, primarily to Japan, exceed $200 million per year. It is a major contributor to the regional economies within which it operates – a fact recognised by both central and local government.

Mr Fisher says the delay in completing all the improvements identified last year by OSH has been due to contractor unavailability, sourcing the necessary parts from overseas, and a re-evaluation of some identified hazards with regards to the best practical method of control.

JNL has invested more than $1.5 million in making the improvements identified by OSH.

“Our whole company is committed to improving our health and safety performance, and a range of initiatives have been put in place through our site business plans and policies to upgrade practices and develop a more effective health and safety culture.”

He says the culture change initiatives will likely take some time to become fully effective. The reinforcement of the importance of health and safety among supervisors and team leaders is a top priority and a core element of JNL’s continuous improvement programme.

Mr Thompson says OSH has made it part of its business strategy over the past two years to improve health and safety standards in the forest processing sector wants to raise the bar on standards across the industry. The four major areas of concern are safe access to work areas, machine guarding, equipment isolation and lockouts, and material handling.

He says JNL has reacted positively to the audit and its improvement has been marked to the point where it now exceeds standards in some areas.

“The type of audit we have undertaken with JNL is the first of its type for the forest processing industry and essentially a benchmark. JNL has set good standards in some areas and we will use these as standards for the industry, while it has also been a learning curve for OSH,” Mr Thompson says.

Mr Fisher says JNL will continue to work with OSH inspectors to deal with any outstanding issues at each site and follow-up audits will be undertaken to re-assess compliance in terms of the initiatives undertaken. Its ultimate goal is to achieve industry “best practice” on a consistent basis.

ENDS


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