Fiona’s blog:WorkSafe raises concerns about things it has seen on sites recently
WorkSafe wants to bring to the industry’s attention concerns that have come to light during visits by Inspectors to forestry harvesting sites in recent months. These concerns relate to the provision of workplace facilities, mobile plant noise and hauler guarding. WorkSafe has indicated that in future Inspectors are likely to take action when they come across these problems.
Hauler guarding: WorkSafe says Inspectors have observed that fall and entrapment guarding on haulers is sometimes missing or ineffective. In the past, the risks created by this ineffective guarding might have been managed with rules and procedures. However, WorkSafe indicates it doesn’t think this is sufficient and that mechanical or technological solutions should be put in place. It says Inspectors will have a particular focus on guarding this year.
Noise: WorkSafe says it has also observed situations where workers in cabs may be exposed to sustained noise levels sufficient to cause permanent hearing damage. It says companies need to be sure that the equipment they are buying is safe in their operating environment under actual operating conditions. Exposure to noise, as with other exposures, needs to monitored, and where risks are identified they need to be dealt with.
Workplace facilities: WorkSafe says Inspectors frequently visit workplaces where workers have to eat or seek weather protection in fuel-soaked containers, where there is no drinking water or facilities to wash hands and where workers need to toilet behind a tree. WorkSafe says from July it will begin enforcing regulations requiring forestry companies to provide appropriate facilities for workers. It says it appreciates the challenges this can present in a forestry context and will work with companies to find pragmatic solutions. Some of these pragmatic solutions have been identified during Safetree Contractor Certification audits and FISC will share these with the industry and WorkSafe.
WorkSafe’s communication on workplace facilities, hauler guarding and noise
This year, WorkSafe’s Forestry Inspectors have had a particular focus on haulers. We plan to report more fully on what we have observed, but we have become aware of a number of examples of inadequate guarding on machines, and in particular haulers, that we would like to bring to the industry’s attention.
The issues we have observed relate particularly to the serious risks of entrapment and falls from height. We are aware of previous incidents that have resulted in the amputation of limbs and can advise that, while investigating a recent fatality, a potentially life-threatening entrapment risk was identified.
Specific issues our Inspectors have observed include original fall and entrapment guarding removed and not replaced, or modified or damaged so as to be ineffective. We have also observed other risks that could be practically and effectively eliminated or managed, not being done so, including on new or quite new equipment. This presents an unacceptable risk to workers and others associated with the work.
We are aware that some of these risks may be quite long standing and may have been previously managed using procedures and rules, rather than mechanical or technological solutions which would eliminate the risk or isolate the hazard. This is a similar situation in our mind to the risks presented by a sheet metal guillotine in a workshop being managed by a belief that “only an idiot would put their hand in there,”; a rule or sign advising of the risk and requiring workers to keep clear; or a yellow line on the floor. Clearly, these are less effective measures than a mechanical guard or lock out.
The well-established way to keep people safe, and the practical effect of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), is that significant risks to people arising from work need to be eliminated where reasonably practical. In HSWA this is defined as where the costs in doing so are not grossly disproportionate to the risk presented. It is only where the risk cannot be eliminated that management of it should be considered. Any management of these risks must be effective in all reasonably foreseeable circumstances. These principles must be applied to these risks.
Those responsible for plant must ensure that it is safe for operators and others.
Significant improvements to safety in forests have been delivered through increased mechanisation. We are working to ensure that industry across the country provides and uses equipment that is safe for operators and other workers and our Inspectors will take appropriate action where risks are not being dealt with appropriately.
In addition to raising these issues with the industry, and directly where we encounter them on the ground, we also intend to raise this with relevant manufacturers and suppliers. As usual these actions will be guided by WorkSafe’s Enforcement Decision Making (EDM) process which is available on our website.
WorkSafe supports increased mechanisation as a means to improve the industry’s health and safety performance.
As part of a focus on mobile plant in forestry operations, we have observed situations where workers in cabs may be exposed to sustained noise levels sufficient to result in permanent damage to hearing. It is worth noting that some machines raising concern are relatively new and might not be expected to be problematic.
Foresters need to be sure that machines they are operating are not just safe on the showroom floor but are designed to be safe in their operating environment under actual operating conditions. Hearing loss has significant implications and this risk needs to understood and eliminated or effectively managed as above. It is far more effective to deal with noise at source or through engineering controls, resorting to PPE may not be an effective approach in many situations.
Exposure to noise, as with other exposures needs to monitored, and where risks are identified they need to be dealt with.
It is common for Inspectors to visit workplaces where workers have to eat, change or seek weather protection in filthy fuel soaked containers, there are no facilities to rest or to wash hands, fresh water relies on workers buying personal water bottles (or worse still energy drinks!) at a gas station on the way to work, and workers need to toilet behind a tree.
We recognise that providing the facilities that the law (and decency) requires may be challenging in some circumstances, but the answer to that challenge can no longer be a blanket refusal to think about it.
Below is statement outlining WorkSafe’s approach to the provision of facilities in forestry workplaces. Note our willingness to work with companies about how these facilities are provided. We are not expecting that this will extend to whether they are provided.
Forestry Sector Engagement and Enforcement Strategy
PCBU Duty to provide certain workplace facilities.
Reference: Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations
2016 section 11. (GRWM Regulations s11)
PCBUs are required to provide certain workplace facilities for workers. This includes worksites at
forestry operations. WorkSafe will work with forest industry stakeholders to ensure PCBUs working
in the forest industry comply with the legislative requirement to provide facilities.
Forestry PCBUs shall provide facilities as stipulated in GRWM regulations s11.
11 Duty to provide certain workplace facilities
(1) A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that adequate facilities are
provided for workers at a workplace, including
(b) drinking water
(c) hand-washing facilities:
(d) facilities where workers can eat and take breaks:
(e) if it is not reasonable for workers to leave the workplace if they become unwell, facilities
where workers can rest.
(3) A PCBU who contravenes subclause (1) or (2) commits an offence and is liable on conviction,
(a) for an individual, to a fine not exceeding $10,000:
(b) for any other person, to a fine not exceeding $50,000.
Facilities provided for workers to eat and take breaks shall not be used to store fuel and oils. All
PCBUs must comply with Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017.
WorkSafe will engage with forest industry stakeholders including FISC, NZ FOA, New Zealand Farm
Forestry Association and FICA to ensure they understand the requirement to provide facilities for
workers. WorkSafe’s, Workplace and facilities requirements fact sheet (August 2018) clearly explains
the requirement to provide facilities and is available on the WorkSafe website.
From 1 July 2019 WorkSafe will commence enforcement action regarding a PCBU’s duty to provide certain facilities for workers as defined in GRWM regulations s11. Health and Safety Inspectors working in the forestry sector will follow the Enforcement Decision Making Model (EDM) when determining appropriate enforcement.