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Forestry industry leaders need to own health and safety

Forestry industry leaders need to own, manage and measure contractor health and safety

6 June 2014

Forestry industry leaders need to make themselves accountable for the health and safety of their contractors if the industry’s poor safety record is to improve, the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum says.

“They need to own this issue, and they need to manage it and measure how well they and their contractors are performing on health and safety,” says Forum Executive Director Julian Hughes.

A consultation document released today by the Independent Forestry Safety Review Panel highlights that there is no simple fix to forestry’s safety problems, Julian says.

“The Forum welcomes the release of the consultation document and agrees with its conclusion that a broad approach is needed to improve the industry’s poor safety track record. We agree this requires an industry-led response, with appropriate involvement from the regulator, and better engagement of workers.

“However, the Forum also believes that an essential ingredient for good workplaces health and safety is for leaders to be actively and visibly working to stop people getting harmed.”

Leaders need to take accountability for the health and safety of everyone who contributes to the success of their business – regardless of whether they are employees or contractors, Julian says.

“This is particularly important in industries like forestry or construction, where most of the dangerous work is done by contractors.”

In late June the Forum will hold launch events around the country, hosted by the Institute of Directors, for an initiative that supports leaders to improve health and safety in their contracting chains.

“Our research has found examples overseas and in New Zealand where organisations in high risk industries are working safely with contractors. The research uncovered some common factors in all these examples – the most important factor being that these organisations genuinely valued and respected their contractors.

“Their leaders took ownership of the health and safety of contractors and held themselves accountable for this to their governing bodies. There were many examples where the CEO’s bonus was partly based on keeping contractors safe.

“These leaders got actively and personally involved in making sure their organisation managed contractor health and safety. We even found a few examples where leaders stopped work on major projects until the safety of contractors could be assured. They also worked to ensure that contract terms encouraged safe work practices and didn’t incentivise unsafe work.

“Last but not least, these leaders understood that if you can’t measure something you can’t manage it. So they had processes to measure injuries and near misses, as well as how much effort was being put in preventing harm.”

Companies in forestry, and in many other New Zealand industries, rely heavily on contractors to deliver to their customers, Julian says.

“Given that, protecting your contractors from harm – and making sure they’re fit for work every day – just makes good business sense.”

It is also essential if leaders are to comply with duties towards contractors contained in new health and safety legislation expected to be passed shortly.

About the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum

The Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum inspires and supports its members to become more effective leaders on health and safety. The Forum has more than 170 members, who are CEOs or Managing Directors of significant New Zealand companies.

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