Feedback wanted on draft BPG

  • Joe's blog: What we can learn from cyclone salvage work
  • Feedback wanted on draft Thinning for Value BPG
  • Fatality Alert: Initial information
  • Review of Health and Safety at Work Act
  • Consultation on FGLT levy
  • Latest H&S performance dashboard
  • Safetree games easier to access
  • Working Alone – useful factsheet
View all news

Joe’s blog

How do you do six years' worth of harvesting work in about 16 months, while making sure that production targets don't compromise your health and safety performance? That was the challenge facing NZ Forest Managers when it began the massive job of harvesting windthrown trees in the Central North Island that had been damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle. The salvage job, that began in February 2023, involving harvesting about 3.4 million cubic metres of wood, or 6,500 hectares. That's equivalent to about 13,000 rugby fields worth of trees.

The company is ontrack to finish a little ahead of its June 2024 deadline. But what's even more impressive to me is that it has done this extraordinary peice of work safely. The operation’s Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate – a main measure of health and safety performance – actually dropped from a rate of 11 (per 200,000 hours worked) before the recovery work began to 1.6 in March 2024. That is despite the number of crews swelling from 8 contractors prior to the cyclone to about 40 at the peak of the salvage work.

I think that NZFM’s success in salvaging the wood safely reflects three significant developments in forestry over the last decade or so. Without a doubt the biggest change is the now widespread use of mechanised harvesting. NZFM’s approach is that, where possible, all harvesting must be done by machines.  Where trees can’t be mechanically harvested they are either left, or where that’s not possible for safety or environmental reasons, they’re brought down by specialist manual fallers working under strict safety conditions. This shift towards mechanical harvesting is now widespread in the industry, and has been a huge contributor to improvements in safety in forestry over the last decade.

The second big change that supported NZFM was the existance of the Safetree Contractor Certification scheme. Introduced in 2018, it gave NZFM the confidence to bring in crews from other regions that had been independently assessed as having robust safety systems and work practices.

The third change has been the development of a more sophisticated ‘safety culture’ in forestry. This has been reflected in stronger leadership from the top, a recognition that health and safety is integral to how we work - not an add-on, and the increasing professionalism of our contracting crews and workers - who take pride in being able to work without causing harm to people or the environment.

NZFM's experience shows how robust health and safety standards can make an industry more resilient to crises, as well as benefiting workers. I think it's timely to reflect on this, given the government's announcement that it intends to review our health and safety laws and regulations.

Joe Akari

CEO Safetree / FISC

Feedback wanted on draft Thinning for Value BPG

We are seeking feedback on the draft Thinning for Value - Best Practice Guide. The guide aims to help thinning for value contractors to improve safety, and to increase the value of the harvest through thinning for value. It has been developed with input from people with industry expertise. We are now looking for feedback from the broader industry before finalising it.  Please provide your feedback by 5pm Friday 17 May to, or call us on 021 164 8036.

Read the draft guide

Fatality Alert: Initial information

WorkSafe issued notification of a fatality in the Wairoa area on 8 February 2024. This involved a manual tree-faller. The tree-faller was an experienced worker who was returning to forestry after an absence. He was a recent recruit and had just joined the crew. The WorkSafe investigation team is in place. Our thoughts go out to the family and others involved in this tragic event. This incident is still under investigation and details are still to be determined, so contributing factors to the incident are not available.

Consider these points for safe manual tree-felling:

  • The Tree Felling Best Practice Guide: This promotes the importance of on-going competency checks for all workers through audits, safe behavioural observations or Certification. These demonstrate that workers in high-risk jobs are maintaining the standards required to achieve their original qualifications. All of these checks must be documented.
  • The Approved Code of Practice for Safety & Health in Forest Operations: This requires a competent person to supervise workers who are new to the operation or task. Regardless of their training status, new workers should not be allowed to work unsupervised until they’ve demonstrated that they’re unlikely to harm themselves or others. Records of supervision and training must be kept, as well as evidence that a competency check has been done.

Follow the 5-Step Felling Procedure

Assess for hazards

  1. Site: Predominant lean, wind strength, infrastructure, other operations
  2. Tree: defects, heavy lean, overhead hazards, restrictions.

Ready to cut?

  1. Prepare: Clear around tree, identify and clear escape route
  2. Cut right: Use the correct cuts in the correct order
  3. Retreat: Finish on the safe side, use escape route, watch out for hazards.

Supporting resources

Download this Alert from the Safetree website

Review of Health and Safety at Work Act

Workplace Relations Minister Brooke van Velden has said that one of her priorities is to reform health and safety law and regulations. In a speech to the Auckland Business Chamber, she said the Health and Safety at Work Act is now almost ten years old, and it is time to assess whether our health and safety system is fit for purpose. Minister van Velden said before embarking on the reforms she wants to consult with businesses, workers and others. She said more information about the consultation process will be available in the coming months. FISC expects to be one of the organisations that contributes to this consultation process.

Consultation on FGLT levy

The FGLT has begun consultation on the next forestry levy paid by forest growers. It is seeking feedback from growers on whether the levy should be renewed for another six years, at what rate, and how the money should be invested in future years. Following the consultation process, eligible growers will vote in a levy referendum in October. The consultation includes a roadshow in the regions running from 23 April to 28 May, and the schedule is available on the FGLT website. Some of FISC’s funding comes from the FGLT.

See more on the FGLT website  

Latest health and safety performance dashboard

See the latest How are we Tracking dashboard for health and safety performance in forestry. The dashboard includes information about Critical Risk areas in forestry.

Download the dashboard from the Safetree website

Safetree games easier to access

We’ve made it easier for people to access our Safetree faller games by removing the need to register to use them. The Faller game helps workers get ready to be assessed for Safetree Worker Certification. The Silviculture game helps silviculture workers confirm their skills. For each game there are desktop versions that include ‘how to play’ videos, and you can download the games for Apple and Android devices. The games have several levels, and only experienced fallers or silviculture workers can make it through the final levels.

See the Tree-faller game

See the Silviculture game

Working Alone – useful factsheet

With the weather getting colder, now could be a good time for a Tailgate meeting discussion on working alone. Safetree’s Working Alone tailgate factsheet can be used to support this discussion. See key information from the factsheet above.

Download the Working Alone factsheet

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