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H&S pilot extended for forestry workers

31 October 2020

New Zealand’s forestry health, safety and wellbeing pilot, Toroawhi, has been given a six-month extension following COVID-19 restrictions. The joint pilot between WorkSafe and the Forest Industry Safety Council saw the appointment of two “roving reps” in the forestry sector to help increase worker representation in health and safety with an aim of ultimately reducing harm occurring in the sector.

The extension takes the pilot phase for the programme from one year to 18 months. WorkSafe engagement lead for forestry Grant Duffy said the Toroawhi have proven success in the industry.

“But when forestry workers were stood down in the early months of the pandemic and throughout lockdown this meant our two Toroawhi weren’t able to get out on site and have the biggest impact. COVID-19 has resulted in many cancellations across the country – but for us it’s created an opportunity to continue this successful pilot”.

“The Toroawhi are inspiring real change and from their work we are seeing a shift in health and safety attitudes in the sector, as well as a real focus on worker’s well-being.” Duffy said throughout lockdown the Toroawhi continued to provide invaluable support through maintaining connections they’d established and supporting return to work planning.

Since the programme’s inception the Toroawhi have engaged with 525 forestry workers in the central North Island and Gisborne/Tairawhiti regions. Toroawhi Richard Stringfellow has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry. Covering the Central North Island region, one of Richard’s focuses is engaging with workers around their mental health and wellbeing.

“I am stoked the pilot has been extended, not for me, but for the workers. Being a Toroawhi means I can get out there, get to the ground, and talk to these workers about their health, safety and well-being.

“Over the last few months, we have set up workers with counselling services, encouraged them to get fit and even helped link some with budgeting services. This is really rewarding work an extension shows this pilot has real value.”

Photo: SafeTree

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