Improving the health of NZ forestry workers

24 September 2019

Improve the health and wellbeing of NZ workers and you also improve safety and productivity. That’s the thinking behind the pilot of a health programme for forestry workers being run by FISC and Rayonier Matariki that has now been extended – thanks to funding from the Forest Growers Levy Trust.

The pilot involves the KYND mobile phone app, which enables workers to store their health information on their mobile phones, and could help them improve their wellbeing. The app was created by Dr Tom Mulholland – a medical doctor and former NZ Forest Service worker.

Last year nearly 800 people tried out the app. As a result, 226 workers were alerted that they had high/elevated blood pressure. Another 38 were alerted that they had pre-diabetes/diabetes and 80 people were alerted they were at risk for depression. Follow up emails were sent to 106 high risk forestry workers to help them come up with a plan to improve their health and lower their risks.

The pilot has now been extended until the end of this year, thanks to the Forest Growers Levy Trust grant and ongoing support from Rayonier Matariki. Over the coming months, 11 of Rayonier Matariki’s Bay of Plenty crews, totalling 100 workers, will be further supported to use the app. Then we will test its ‘stickability’ – whether the workers find the app useful and keep using it.

At the same time, the app will also be modified to make it more forestry specific and to make it possible for health professionals to upload a person’s health information. All personal information entered by the health professionals or individuals is securely stored and subject to privacy regulations.

At the end of the year we’ll evaluate the pilot to see if the app could be used more widely to improve the health and wellbeing of forestry workers. Thanks to everyone who has supported, and taken part, in this pilot – particularly Rayonier Matariki, whose support has been critical.

Key health risks in forestry

Last year’s trial of the KYND app highlighted the following key health risks in forestry:

– Smoking
– Waist circumferences that suggest a high risk of injury (e.g. getting out of machinery) and diseases like diabetes
– High blood pressure, suggesting an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke
– Unhealthy cholesterol ratios suggesting an increased risk of cardiovascular disease – Pre-diabetes or diabetes
– Sleep issues
– Risk of moderate to severe depression.

Source: SafeTree, Fiona Ewing, Forest Industry Safety Council