Rural round-up

30/01/2014

Major forest industry safety review launched:

An independent panel is to conduct a major review into the high number of serious and fatal injuries in the forest industry.

The panel members are business leader George Adams, employment health and safety lawyer Hazel Armstrong and business safety specialist Mike Cosman. Their appointment and their terms of reference have been endorsed by forest industry organisations, ACC, relevant government agencies, the NZ Council of Trade Unions and the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum.

The review, which is expected to take up to six months to complete, is being 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.

Forest Owners past-president Bill McCallum says the forest industry makes an important contribution to New Zealand, providing jobs, export earnings and helping to lift economic growth. . .

Forest Contractors Welcome Expert Review Team:

Following the announcement earlier today of the start of the Forest Industry Workplace Safety Review process, the original architects of the review say they are pleased with the makeup of the review team.

“It was our executive board that first raised concerns with the corporate forest managers back in March 2013” says Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) spokesman John Stulen, “so we are pleased to see that a very strong and completely independent team of experienced safety professionals has been engaged to carry out the work.”

“We’ve worked closely with the Forest Owners Association and union leaders to ensure that a robust process was put in place.

The time we have taken to set up this up and ensure the review is impartial will give piece of mind to everyone.

All workers in our industry and their families can be assured they can speak frankly and openly and expect to have their concerns heard.” . . .

Industry-led forestry inquiry welcome:

Labour Minister Simon Bridges today welcomed the announcement of an industry-led inquiry into forestry safety, which will commence next month.

“I am pleased the forestry industry has taken ownership of the inquiry as enduring safety solutions in our forests cannot be made by government enforcement alone,” Mr Bridges says.

“The number of workplace deaths and injuries in forestry is too high and any action to reduce that toll deserves support.

“The Government’s health and safety regulator, WorkSafe NZ, will make a significant contribution to the inquiry. It will provide secretariat and other support, and will also make a substantial submission. . .

Iwi seeks dam benefits:

Hawke’s Bay iwi Ngati Kahungunu wants to know how it might benefit financially from a proposed dam, without becoming an investor.

It’s one of three iwi who have made an agreement with the regional council to talk about making changes to the Ruataniwha Dam plans.

Ngati Kahungunu runanga chair Ngahiwi Tomoana says discussions will take in to account the interest of the tribal people along the river.

The tribe has asked for all information on the dam so it can examine the data and reach its own conclusion on the benefits of any water storage scheme, he says. . . .

Maori trust to build East Coast dam:

A Maori organisation has won the right to build a dam on the East Coast.

Wi Pere Trust has got the tick of approval from Gisborne District Council to store water at Whatatutu.

Supplies will be taken from Waipaoa River and the dam will hold enough water to service tribal farmland, vineyards and orchards for 20 days during any drought. . . .

Contest to set speed fencing world record:

Speed and skill will be the key combination needed in Waikato this week to establish a world record for speed fencing.

The challenge, which involves putting battens on a fence, will be a feature of the Grasslandz Agricultural Machinery Expo, taking place at Ereka, between Morrinsville and Hamilton tomorrow and Friday.

It’s organised by Fairbrother Industries, a New Zealand company that makes post drivers and other fencing equipment for the local and export markets. . .   .

Sheep And Beef Sector Boost With Genetics Investment:

The announcement today that the Government will invest $15 million into sheep and beef genetics research over next five years has been welcomed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman, Mike Petersen.

The Government has said it will contribute funding for genetic research to allow the sheep and beef sector to further improve genetic gain and the development of new traits that can be farmed on hill country.

Petersen said the Government’s funding commitment was a pleasing show of confidence in the New Zealand sheep and beef sector, with the potential to significantly boost farmer profitability and that of the New Zealand economy.

“This investment supports a whole range of research, identifying new breeding traits that will produce more efficient animals and those that meet consumer preferences in our valuable export markets. . .

Following the announcement earlier today of the start of the Forest Industry Workplace Safety Review process, the original architects of the review say they are pleased with the makeup of the review team.

“It was our executive board that first raised concerns with the corporate forest managers back in March 2013” says Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) spokesman John Stulen, “so we are pleased to see that a very strong and completely independent team of experienced safety professionals has been engaged to carry out the work.”

“We’ve worked closely with the Forest Owners Association and union leaders to ensure that a robust process was put in place.

The time we have taken to set up this up and ensure the review is impartial will give piece of mind to everyone.

All workers in our industry and their families can be assured they can speak frankly and openly and expect to have their concerns heard.”


Wide approval for workplace safety reform

08/08/2013

Labour Minister Simon Bridges has announced the most significant reform of New Zealand’s workplace health and safety system in 20 years.

“The Working Safer package represents a major step change in New Zealand’s approach to meet our target of reducing the workplace injury and death toll by 25 percent by 2020,” says Mr Bridges.

“The reforms recalibrate our approach so we are working smarter, targeting risk and working together to improve performance in workplace health and safety.

“This is the legacy we owe to the Pike River families, the families of the 75 people who are killed each year in New Zealand workplaces, and the estimated 600 to 900 who die annually from the long-term effects of occupational disease.”

Mr Bridges says Working Safer addresses the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety which provided Government with a solid foundation to work from.

“We will improve the legislation and back it up with clear guidelines and enforcement, and investment in a strong new regulator WorkSafe New Zealand.

“But achieving the target is not something we can do alone. It also requires leadership and action from business and workers, working with government, sharing the responsibility and driving the solutions on the ground.

“Good health and safety makes good business sense.  It is an investment in improved productivity, staff engagement and in an organisation’s reputation in the community,” Mr Bridges says.

The rabid anti-business sector doesn’t get this.

Safe businesses are better businesses for people, productivity and profits.

Included in the reform package are:

  • an overhaul of the law, supported by clear, consistent guidelines and information for business on their requirements
  • more funding for WorkSafe New Zealand to strengthen enforcement and education and implement the changes
  • a focus on high risk areas
  • stronger focus on occupational harm and hazardous substances
  • better coordination between government agencies
  • improved worker participation
  • stronger penalties, enforcement tools and court powers.

More details on the package here.

BusinessNZ welcomes the changes:

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said it was a significant step in the right direction.

“Moving to a principles-based regime in which health and safety responses are tailored to the business rather than the current one-size-fits-all approach will be a real help to many businesses, as will a simpler approach to levy setting and other costs.

“We are also pleased to see a heavy emphasis on clarifying responsibilities and on providing information and guidance to businesses and their employees.” 

Mr O’Reilly urged that care be taken in finalising the law to avoid unintended consequences. . .

ACC is supportive:

ACC’s Chief Executive, Scott Pickering, says ACC is looking forward to working closely with the new Crown agent ‘WorkSafe New Zealand’. The agency forms the cornerstone of the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Independent Taskforce on Health and Safety.

“WorkSafe New Zealand will bring a new, sharper focus to the importance of workplace safety, and ACC will provide all the support we can to ensure more Kiwis go home safe and sound at the end of their working day.”

Mr Pickering says he’s very mindful of the important role ACC plays in injury prevention, but he also looks forward to seeing what can be achieved with a more collaborative approach.

“There’s a growing awareness that New Zealand’s high work-related injury rates require united action, with Government agencies, businesses and workers all working together towards the same goal. . .

Forest Owners Association supports the reforms:

“The government has a vital role to play in improving safety in the workplace,” says president Bill McCallum. “It has the power to pull a range of levers that will influence attitudes, understandings and behaviours of all involved.”

He says lax attitudes to safety are prevalent in New Zealand and even with the best will in the world, it is a battle to get safety to be seen as the number one priority by every individual in the workplace.

“What we desperately need is a change in culture at all levels of our society, so that unsafe work practices are rejected as being socially unacceptable. We have seen huge changes in social attitudes to drink driving and tobacco smoking, thanks largely to government support for campaigns addressing those issues.

“We now need the same focus brought to bear on cultural attitudes that portray risk-taking as being acceptable.

“The real game changer will be when we get acceptance from everyone involved – from the boardroom through to the worker in the forest – that we have a collective and personal responsibility for health and safety. This is a responsibility to and by the worker, as well as to their workmates, their families and the businesses they work for.”

The package has also been welcomed by the CTU:

Helen Kelly, CTU President said “the announcements today acknowledge that our health and safety system is in need of an overhaul, and we welcome the direction taken by the Government with these proposed changes.”

“Moves to strengthen worker participation at the workplace are particularly positive and will help keep Kiwi workers safer at work. The inclusion of a general duty to involve and consult with workers on health and safety matters, and strengthen the role of H&S representatives will give workers a voice in how health and safety is handled in their workplace”.

Her only complaint is no worker representative on the Worksafe New Zealand Board.

Even the  the Public Service Association: welcomes the reforms, though it too complains that there’s no representative for workers on the Worksafe board.

Work safety is the responsibility of employers and employees, wide support for the reforms from representatives of both is a good start.


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