Autumn 2017 Site Visits
Making site visits to meet FISA members has been a privilege. It allows members to ask questions of the Board and shape FISA’s priorities to help ensure they reflect the challenges faced by those most at risk of injury.
In October the CEO and I made four site visits and met with contractors, managers, landowners and FWM’s. All discussions have been open and robust.
At a Confor meeting for landowners and agents in East England, I heard how as a result of dialogue with cutting teams, the agents now have the right excavator on site; how robustness on safety has meant they are rejecting buyers who price blind; how site visits are used (wherever possible) as moments to praise the good, not find fault; and how this has built trust and is moving to a preferred supplier approach.
At meetings in the Borders there were great examples of proactive engagement evident, including unsafe acts reporting, contractor/client accident investigation, training for new starts and cross regional learning.
Member concerns about the commercial pressures of rising timber prices, supply dynamics of the timber market, downward pressure on rates for contractors, a lack of time from sale notification to work start and shortage of resource to plan work, were all voiced.
It is not hard to conclude that the consequences of these pressures will be greater safety risk and inefficiencies; from inception of timber sales through to completion.
We also heard about mismatches between sale information and reality on the ground; time pressure to assess safety risks and lack of skilled chainsaw and machine drivers; rates being lowered to minimise the impact of rising demand and price of standing timber.
A lack of understanding by timber sellers of necessary traffic safety measures for roadside tree felling was a recurring theme in 2017. Agents also appear confused about the impact of providing too little information prior to sale.
Machines being sold and leaving the UK to de-risk contractors working capital exposure was highlighted at one visit; as well as downward pressure on rates to a point where margins are all but non-existent. A lack of visibility of long term supply for all in the supply chain continues to be a consequence of reliance on the spot market for the majority of sales.
12 Dec 2017 Steering Group Meeting
The sad ‘highlight’ of these meetings continues to be serious injury to Contractors. More than eight serious incidents were reported. More information will be available in the published minutes in early February.
The constructive and open engagement of members is very encouraging and a growing consensus in my mind that FISA priorities are the right ones. FISA key focus remains ‘Safety before Price’ and ‘Cutter safety and support’.
The Working Groups continue to report good progress (on guidance and new tech for hauliers for example). Please come forward if you feel you can contribute?
In the new-year expect FISA to move forward and challenge the industry to change the way it operates and to support those most vulnerable. Also expect to see the HSE inspecting forestry sites in support of these priorities.
The supply chain, growers, mills and processors must to act together in 2018, as the Accord requires, putting safety first.