September 3rd, 2013

Forest & Wood Award Finalists - ACC Health & Safety Initiative

Michelle Harris – Human Resources Adviser on behalf of Carter Holt Harvey Pulp, Paper and Packaging

Maintaining the long-term health and wellbeing of staff is something Michelle Harris and her team have taken very seriously in the past 12 months. 

Poor health and the resulting high rate of absenteeism at Carter Holt Harvey’s Kinleith plant had become a real issue affecting productivity and workplace safety. In addition to that, the costs associated with finding temporary workers with an appropriate level of skill and training was unacceptably high. 

Acutely aware of the high rates of diabetes, gout, obesity, fatigue and knee injuries affecting employees, Michelle and her team initiated a six month program to educate their 570 staff and motivate them to make a positive changes in not only their eating habits, but also in the areas of exercise and sleep . 

The results were stunning.  A total of 88 employees undertook ‘The Biggest Loser’ challenge which encouraged radical but sustainable weight loss through diet and exercise, while a seminar series featuring a nutritionist, a gym trainer and a sleep specialist, ensured the healthy lifestyle message reached the greatest number of employees possible. 

Accidents due to poor health and fatigue were reduced, hidden issues such as high blood pressure were picked up, and absenteeism experienced a significant reduction with temporary worker numbers dropping from 18 to five.  Another unforeseen benefit of the program was the number of families that got involved outside of the workplace. 

Michelle and the team can feel proud that their in-house initiative has improved the health outcomes of the community as a whole.  

Kelvin Diack – Director, Raywood Logging Ltd When a runaway log hit a mate square in the chest, knocking him clean off a bluff and into the Marlborough Sounds, Kelvin Diack knew he needed to make a decision.  Either he was going to chuck it all in and leave forestry, or he was going to make sure nothing like that ever happened again.  Luckily for his crew, Kelvin chose the latter option.  Kelvin has always believed on-the-job communication could be improved. 

Faced with a crew working in a challenging terrain with limited visibility of each other and very few ways of communicating over the sound of chainsaws, Kelvin had a number of challenges to consider.  Two years of trialling and fabrication has resulted in a novel solution where every man carries a radio with a special attachment that plugs into earmuffs on the safety helmet.  Whether they’re using a chainsaw or driving a bulldozer, everyone can hear at all times. 

Kelvin believes strongly that his crew’s communications solution will reduce the likelihood of serious accidents but beyond that, there have been other benefits that relate to the crew’s general sense of wellbeing.  The two channel system allows for members of the crew to talk to each other on a second channel while still keeping track of what’s happening on the main logging channel.  And it’s not just idle chatter. 

All that talk on Channel Two has resulted in further improvements to workplace safety, with Kelvin’s crew coming up with a system of green and red lights atop the hauler to communicate risk to the team as a whole.  It’s communication at its finest.  

Mike Alexander – Director, Fast Harvesting Limited The idea seemed so simple to Mike Alexander – if GPS could be used to effectively track hunting dogs, why couldn’t it be applied to a safe retreat system for those working in logging?  The logging industry is notoriously dangerous, with injuries and fatalities among haulers – breakers out and fellers especially – a major concern. 

With five logging operations in the Tokoroa area and a staff of 44, Mike had an incentive to get this right.  The system is simple – workers appear as triangles superimposed on the harvest plan map on a screen in the hauler operator’s cab.  The hauler operator will determine what is a safe retreat distance and input 10m, 20m or 30m into the system. 

Once all the workers are safely outside the determined range, the operator will give the all-clear.  Sensors are fitted to machinery so if ropes start moving and a worker walks back in, an alarm will trigger.  It’s a story of prevention.  Mike Alexander believes if he can provide a tool that will enable his crew to communicate more effectively and avoid serious accidents, then it’s worth doing.   It’s taken 18 months of perseverance to develop the idea of an alarm and safe retreat system using GPS technology and to get it working out in the field.  

It’s been worth the effort.  Mike knows he’s onto something that has huge potential to radically improve the industry’s safety standards.