Two worker representatives are elected to New Zealand's multi-partner forestry sector injury prevention program after nationwide ballot; both are experienced foresters, one has lost a son to the industry

WELLINGTON, New Zealand , April 9, 2014 (press release) – ACC announced today that following a nationwide ballot of forestry workers, Wiremu Edmonds and Neil Thomas will be the worker representatives on its new injury prevention programme, aimed at encouraging safer practices in the forestry sector.

Both are experienced forestry workers and passionate, experienced health and safety advocates – and in Wiremu’s case, his passion is strengthened by the personal tragedy of having lost a son to the industry.

The ‘ACC Forestry Sector Injury Prevention Programme’ is being developed and implemented in collaboration with WorkSafe NZ, the NZ Forest Owners Association (FOA), the Forestry Industry Contractors Association (FICA) and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

Wiremu and Neil will join other key forestry sector stakeholders on the programme’s steering committee, which will meet regularly to act as an advisory group, supporting and advising ACC on how best to design and implement the programme.

Wiremu, a self-described fourth generation bushman who worked in silviculture and logging crews before taking up health and safety roles in the industry, says he was pushed to “a deep abyss of pain” by the death of his son. But, rather than look back, Wiremu says he’s committed to “standing up for the men and women of this industry, that we may all return home to our families each night”.

Like Wiremu, Neil has a strong background in the sector, having worked for, then later run his own harvesting crew, before becoming a health and safety trainer.

Neil was nominated because of the respect he has within the industry as someone who genuinely cares for people; who is accessible and makes time to listen, and who follows up concerns to make the industry safer.

ACC’s Head of Insurance Products and Injury Prevention, David Simpson, says the worker representatives will play a crucial role on the steering committee.

“They will give a voice to those working on the ground in the industry, and contribute their understanding of what the safety issues are that confront the sector, and how these issues can be best tackled.”

The ACC programme involves eight streams of work, aimed at developing clearer, effective guides and resources for decision-makers and workers on the ground, to influence them to make safer choices in their day-to-actions.”

Mr Simpson says “likely outputs of the programme include workshops, educational resources, assessment tools, videos and case studies, designed to address high risk tasks and situations that workers face on the job.”

The ACC programme is intended to complement the independent review of forestry safety, launched in January by FICA and FOA, which will address a broader palette of issues affecting safety in the sector.

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