Govt stepping up on forestry safety

  • Simon Bridges

The Government has stepped up its efforts to improve forestry safety and Labour Minister Simon Bridges is calling on those in the industry to do the same. 

“The Government is committed to implementing the major step change in workplace health and safety that we need to see in New Zealand, which will help bring down fatalities and serious injuries in the forestry sector,” Mr Bridges says. 

“WorkSafe NZ, the new Crown agency dedicated to workplace health and safety, will go live on 16 December.  It has a very clear mandate to bring down the death and injury toll – by 25 per cent by 2020 – in our workplaces.  The Government has allocated an additional $30 million to WorkSafe to strengthen education and enforcement.

“The Health and Safety Reform Bill — to be introduced early next year — will extend the duty to keep workers safe beyond the traditional employer.  All those contributing to making work happen will have a duty to ensure health and safety.  This will be especially important in a contractor-dominated sector like forestry and the sector needs to prepare itself for these changes. 

“Boards and chief executives will have much more responsibility placed on them for health and safety, to reinforce the message that leadership from the top is fundamental.  Equally, the law will improve worker participation to ensure workers know how to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.

“Those calling for corporate manslaughter need to be reminded of the tougher penalties being implemented as part of this reform.  There will be a new tiered liability regime and, overall, a significant increase in the maximum penalty levels, including increased prison sentences for reckless conduct.   
“Those calling for a Government inquiry need to recognise that the time for a talk-fest has past.  The forestry sector has never had a great safety record, but I believe the work underway and the new enforcement approach will help lead to sustainable change.

“The Government can’t make this change alone though.  We have put forest owners on notice and proactive inspections will continue over the next couple of months.  It is highly likely these inspections will lead to prosecutions. 

“My advice to the industry is ‘make changes now’,” Mr Bridges said.

Enforcement Programme by WorkSafe NZ

Phase One: 
Complete proactive programme to assess cable logging contracting operations against the new code of practice.  (This is expected to be completed before Christmas). 

In the New Year, WorkSafe will meet with the Forestry Owners Association, Forestry Industry Contractors Association, Competenz (the industry ITO) and with worker representatives to report back on the findings from Phase One.   

Phase Two: 
Assess tree felling operations and revisit all operations issued with an enforcement notice in Phase One.  If operators are still non-compliant, or if further issues are identified, WorkSafe will increase enforcement and, where appropriate, will prosecute.