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Fiona’s final forest safety blog

30 July 2022
After seven great years this is my last Safetree blog. What an experience it’s been overseeing Safetree/FISC’s growth from a recommendation in the 2014 Independent Forestry Safety Review to an established organisation with a focused work programme agreed by key stakeholders.

The achievement I’m most proud of over those seven years is the role Safetree/FISC have played in helping the New Zealand forestry industry develop a more sophisticated and effective approach towards health and safety.

There’s been a growing understanding that the best way to improve safety is not by adding more rules and compliance. It’s by focusing on things that set crews up for success – like improving worker wellbeing, adopting more collaborative ways of working, and managers working to better understand what really happens on site (not just what they think happens).

Safetree’s Toroawhi have played an important role in spreading that understanding. When they visit sites, they kick-off by talking about their own wellbeing and work experiences, which creates trust and gets people talking about their own situations. As a result, all sorts of things can come to the surface – often things crew bosses and managers had no idea about. Outing these issues is important because if you don’t know about them you can’t deal with them.

It’s also been good to see people become more accepting of the fact that what happens at home can affect us at work. Bosses might not be able to help someone with these personal problems, but they do need to be aware of them because if someone’s distracted, stressed or upset it impacts their ability to work safely.

I’ve visited a couple of crews where I’ve seen first-hand the positive changes that occur when the boss drops the ‘take a concrete pill and harden up’ attitude and realises that their people are their biggest asset and are worth looking after. That’s why Safetree’s Leadership and Understanding Risk workshops have taken a different approach from traditional safety workshops and have focused on people, and how their input is vital in creating safer workplaces.

I really believe that more ‘safety work’ is not what we need in forestry. We need to focus on creating ‘better work’ – where all parts of the forest value chain collaborate and where those paying the bills live up to their moral and legal obligations to make sure that the workers who help them make money aren’t harmed in the process.

I’d like to thank all the people who have supported me over the last seven years – particularly those who’ve been willing to evolve the way they think and act around health and safety. I leave the organisation well placed to continue the work we’ve started and to continue to support forestry stakeholders to work together to create change.

Fiona Ewing, National Safety Director, Forest Industry Safety Council

Source: Safetree

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