Leaps and bounds in forestry safety

Friday 7 Oct 2022

The NZ forestry industry is broken – or at least it was, before the establishment of the Forestry Industry Safety Council (FISC). ecoPortal Chief Executive Dr. Manuel Seidel speaks with two of its key leaders.

Forestry has suffered from extreme serious injury rates and unusually high fatality rates.

Thanks to two key leaders, the industry is making a turnaround – albeit slowly – towards a stronger safety culture focusing on people’s safety at heart, over profit. Fiona Ewing has recently stepped down from her role as head of FISC, a 7-year endeavour, where she’s helped lead tangible cultural change in the sector, ensuring that important safety conversations take place.

Mike Cosman, renowned in the New Zealand health and safety space, is a key thought leader and safety expert, whose safety review of the forestry industry was the catalyst for FISC’s establishment. When asked why he came on board commissioning the forestry industry review, Cosman’s reply is simple: “Basically, fascination.”

Fascination for an industry so fundamental to the New Zealand economy, yet one that’s a notable anomaly statistically with soaring fatalities and serious injury rates. While forestry contributes over a whopping $6 billion to the New Zealand economy annually, the industry also contributes a tragically high number of fatalities, alongside serious injuries.

Cosman’s review sought to gain a tangible understanding of what all the moving parts were in the forestry industry, to determine exactly why – and how – such overwhelming statistics were normalised. They needed both an in-depth probe along with a bigger-picture, systems-wide focus to truly discern the underlying issues.

The review was instrumental in bringing together an array of stakeholders in the industry, who traditionally rarely interacted with each other. The initial aim of the review was to gain a holistic understanding of where all the moving parts are in forestry, notably who had influence, made decisions, and who was interested in finding solutions to the high-risk environment.

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Source: Industrial Safety News

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