The Forestry Corporation of NSW has cemented its commitment to work health and safety (WHS) improvements by renewing a partnership with the state's WorkCover authority.

Announced on June 30, this ongoing agreement between the two bodies is a continuation of commitments first signed in 2011. The launch of this partnership has influenced impressive progress in addressing safety issues in this challenging industry, according to WorkCover NSW Work Health and Safety Division Acting General Manager Peter Dunphy.

"Through the partnership, WorkCover NSW and Forestry Corporation of NSW have delivered the Forest Industry Engagement Program to facilitate hazard identification and general risk management in forest harvesting," Mr Dunphy explained.

"Importantly, there has been a 35 per cent reduction in injury claims since the partnership was signed in 2011."

The partnership has also led to the creation of a range of vital resources for those working in the forestry industry. For instance, the Forest Industry Safety Tool was launched to raise awareness of safety management systems and workplace safety obligations.

Further benefits are being seen across Australia, as the two organisations contributed to the development of a new national WHS package, released by Safe Work Australia this month – Managing risks in forestry operations.

Forestry Corporation of NSW Chief Executive Officer Nick Roberts explained that the partnership should help to improve safety for a wide range of occupations.

"Forestry Corporation's workforce is diverse and mobile, with staff and contractors involved in activities ranging from setting and monitoring remote wildlife traps through to large scale tree felling and timber hauling operations and firefighting," he explained.

Due to the wide range of occupations found within the forestry industry, accessing the correct training is key to ensuring all employees understand the hazards specific to their role.

For instance, while some staff can benefit from working at heights training, others may find it more advantageous to access traffic control and management courses.

The importance of WHS standards in the forestry industry

The Forestry industry can pose many risks to the public and to employees. Understanding and minimising these hazards is crucial for reducing the number of serious accidents and injuries.

Figures collected by WorkCover show that there have been 755 workplace injuries recorded in the NSW forestry industry over the past five years. These events have cost the sector approximately $8.4 million in workers compensation.

Falls, trips and slips while working at heights, in trees or on large machinery are among the most common workplace accidents reported in the industry. Additionally, body stressing and being hit by moving objects are also among the more frequent injuries.

Traffic management and driver safety is another key concern in the forestry sector, as logging contractors are over-represented in truck rollover crash statistics. Fortunately, the partnership is expected to benefit individuals working in transport and freight-related roles within this sector.

"We're already working together on a safety training program specifically tailored to log truck drivers and we hope the partnership will deliver many more practical initiatives that will make for a safer workplace for all forestry employees," Mr Roberts said.

Understanding forestry work hazards

By using the Safe Work Australia forestry package, it is easy to identify the various occupational health and safety (OHS) that may be present when working in this challenging sector.

Specific guides have been released in a range of occupations and operational settings, including growing, harvesting, extracting and transporting logs.

In particular, the felling of trees has been identified as a high risk forestry activity and involves a number of important considerations when attempting to conduct this work safely.

Some tree felling operations will require workers to climb above ground in order to prep trees for falls. Once an individual has climbed above two metres in height, safety belts and harnesses are required to be worn. The correct use, fitting and maintenance of this equipment is crucial for ensuring safe work practices.

Any climbing apparatus used during this process should be inspected, tested and deemed suitable for the task as per the manufacturer's recommendations.

To achieve this, employers operating a business within the forestry industry are recommended to provide workplace training relevant to heights and other forestry hazards. Accessing a working at heights program should be a vital consideration for any supervisor, employer or individual who may be required to perform duties above the ground.

Accessing forestry-related training

For more information on working at heights training, traffic management course or other relevant OHS programs, get in touch with the AlertForce team.

AlertForce offers a range of nationally recognised training programs designed to improve the awareness, monitoring and mitigation of hazards and risks in many workplaces and industries.

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