Press Releases

Tuesday, 06 April 2021
World Health Day, 7 April 2021: Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone

WHO day

The theme for World Health Day 2021 is “Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone

Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) standards specifically require forest management certificate holders to have health and safety systems in place. These systems are built on an assessment of the various levels of risk and implementation relies heavily on competent training and then supervision during operations. Harvesting, by default draws the most attention due to the use of dangerous equipment such as chainsaws, loggers and the challenging work environment, but this does not mean that all else can be ignored. For all operations, systems must be put in place that ensures the equipment that is used is suitable for the task at hand, practical and safe. Workers would have to be trained how to use the equipment and how to ensure their own safety throughout the process. All safety issues need to be addressed and emergency response procedures need to be put in place, and the necessary safety training completed.

The most dangerous aspect of harvesting is the felling of trees. Most fatalities and injuries occur here and in modern forestry, these invariably occur because the correct procedures were not followed. A chainsaw operator must be thoroughly trained and on an ongoing basis. They would then be required to wear the appropriate protective clothing such as cut resistant pants, gloves that absorb some of the vibrations from the machine, hard hat with hearing, eye protection and safety shoes. The chainsaw itself must be fully serviced and they must ensure on an ongoing basis that all the safety features on the machine such as the emergency brake, are always fully functional.

They say that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. This is critical to every forestry operation as part of this planning would be to ensure that all health and safety risks have been identified and addressed. One also need to add that “if you fail to supervise your operation will fail”. Most non-conformances identified during FSC forest management audits relate to health and safety issues and this is invariably directly linked to a failure in competent supervision. These non-conformances invariably lead to major corrective action requests, meaning that, the issue is critical and must be fixed promptly.

The use of herbicides and other chemicals are central to many forestry operations, no different from what one sees in agriculture. However, FSC has very strict rules in terms of which chemicals are allowed in certified forests and this by default excludes chemicals that are very hazardous to human life and/or have significant impacts on the natural environment. An FSC certified forestry operation also has to ensure that the transport and storage of any chemicals is done following the best available practices. Persons that work with these chemicals need to be thoroughly trained and again, constant supervision is key to ensure the systems function and Homo sapiens and the natural environment is considered.

Whereas safety is a default part of most operations in the developed world, this is often not the case in other parts of the world. Many countries have excellent legislation and guidelines in terms of safety, but these are poorly enforced. Enter the FSC auditor and a vast difference develops between the performance of certified forestry operations that are certified and those that are not.
Well-managed forests support Goal 3 – Healthy lives and well-being of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by supporting efforts to reduce pollution, ensuring sound health and safety practices are in place for workers, implementing the FSC pesticides policy ensuring social and environmental protection, providing job-specific training, fair compensation to workers in case of occupational diseases.

A study carried out in the Congo Basin showed significantly better provision in FSC concessions than in neighbouring concessions (FSC, 2019) of: safety equipment (100 per cent compared with 75 per cent), procedures to control and verify use of safety equipment (90 per cent compared with 25 per cent), health and life insurance for all staff (100 per cent compared with 25 per cent) 1. The same Congo Basin studies showed improved social and economic wellbeing of local communities which has led to the provision of health (and education) facilities for people living on FSC-certified forest concessions. There were noticeable differences between FSC certified concessions and neighbouring concessions: potable water availability (86 per cent cf. 67 per cent), individual home showers and toilet systems (100 per cent cf. 46 per cent), and local medical facilities (100 per cent cf. 38 per cent). 1

As we commemorate World Health Day let’s remember the importance of building of building safer and healthier working environments and communities in our forestry areas, and realise that this an ongoing process and there is no room for complacency.

1. FSC: A Tool to Implement the Sustainable Development Goals, July 2019

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