Review aims to cut forestry accidents

Forestry sector organisations have joined forces to back an independent review of safety in the industry.

Last week, in a joint announcement, sector representatives said a three-member independent panel would conduct the review into the high number of serious and fatal injuries in the forestry industry.

Forest Owners' Association past-president Bill McCallum said the present rate of serious injury and death was ''simply not acceptable''.

''We are committed to creating an industry where all our people go home safely at the end of each day, and we are hopeful that the independent panel will shine a light on practical solutions to help us achieve this.''

The forestry industry made an important contribution to New Zealand, providing jobs and export earnings and helping lift economic growth, he said.

It had taken time to find the right panellists, and get support and agreement on the terms of reference but the foundations for the review were now in place, he said.

No aspect of the industry's operations would be out of bounds.

''Panel members can talk to anyone and seek whatever expert advice and analysis they need.

''We are asking all employers and workers in the industry to give them their full co-operation. Individuals who want to have an input are strongly encouraged to do so.

''They will be looking at our workplace cultures, our existing safety programmes and training, the activities of Worksafe NZ and ACC, worker involvement and engagement, and the unique structure of the industry, with its reliance on contractors to do most harvesting,'' Mr McCallum said.

The panel's job was to uncover the underlying factors that were resulting in workers being harmed and to recommend practical measures to significantly improve the situation, he said.

The panel members are business leader George Adams, employment health and safety lawyer Hazel Armstrong and business safety specialist Mike Cosman.

It will have its first meeting next week, in Wellington. The appointments and the terms of reference have been endorsed by forestry industry organisations, ACC, relevant government agencies, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and the Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum.

It is funded by the Forest Owners, Forest Industry Contractors and Farm Forestry Associations, with administrative support and other resources provided by the Government's health and safety regulator, WorkSafe New Zealand

The review is expected to take six months.