Response to flooding & preparing for additional risks

On behalf of the Forest Industry Safety Council and Safetree, I want to acknowledge all those affected by cyclone Gabrielle, particularly our forestry whānau.

The cyclone has devastated people’s homes and the infrastructure their communities rely on. It has damaged forests, forestry equipment and forestry roads, adding even more economic stress and uncertainty.

Our thoughts are with you, and if there’s anything I could do to help please get in touch.

I also want to acknowledge the forestry businesses and people who are using their skills and equipment to get aid to affected communities and to offer other support. It’s encouraging to see the industry step up in this way.

Preparing for additional risks

While parts of the country are still in rescue mode, some forestry areas might be getting back to work over the next week or so. For those able to do that, it’s important to be mindful of the additional risks Gabrielle might have left behind.

On top of potentially unstable land and roads, and damaged equipment, this includes the risk of windthrow trees. Some loggers might never have experienced weather like we had this week and the extent of windthrow potentially left behind. 

So it’s important that crews understand that conditions might have changed dramatically. They need to watch out for windthrow, and to seek a second opinion if something doesn’t look right.

There is useful information from the Tree-felling Practice Guide below that should be shared and discussed with crews. Experienced loggers will already know this procedure. But now would be a good time to reinforce the messages.

Wellbeing will also be a big, and ongoing, issue over the next weeks and months. Workers whose homes, families and communities have been affected will have a lot on their minds. Many might be traumatised and stressed. So it’s important that expectations at work reflect the pressure people might be under at home. 

Our Toroawhi are available to talk to crews about looking after their wellbeing during this difficult time.

Joe Akari, CEO Safetree/FISC

Information from the Tree-felling Best Practice Guide – Felling Windthrow Trees

  • Wherever possible, windthrown trees must be felled by machine, rather than manually.
  • If a machine is used, the operator must be competent in windthrow salvage operations.
  • Fallers deemed competent to work with windthrow must receive refresher training if they have not felled windthrow trees within the last 12 months.
  • Evidence of the faller’s competency to work with windthrow must be available on the worksite, including records of assessment and retraining.
  • Each windthrow tree needs to be assessed individually.
  • No-one should work directly under wind-wrenched trees.
  • Fallers must assess all possible movements of a windblown stem after the release of tension, and plan appropriate cuts beforehand. 
  • Faller fatigue and complacency must be closely monitored by the foreman.

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