Australia’s forest industries are on the cusp of another significant step forward with national consistency in assessing contractor businesses and operations against key operational risk areas.
“Forest contracting businesses are currently required to participate in a range of auditing and assessment schemes depending on the forest grower company and harvesting manager. By adopting the national ForestFit Standard, growers and their contractors have the opportunity to limit downtime, get rid of duplication, reduce costs and increase productivity,” says Tim Lester, General Manager of the Australian Forest Contractors Association.
“Forest contractor businesses have the chance to have their say about the best way the assessment, auditing and assurance activities should be done by spending 10 to 15 minutes completing a survey on how auditing should align to their business needs.”
The ForestFit steering committee, which involves the major forest grower companies, is working on what the future will look like for ForestFit-certified businesses.
The survey results will mean forest growers and contractors can recognise the cost of assessment activities for contracting businesses.
“This information will contribute to establishing clear and consistent assessment activities across participating forest growers to eliminate duplication, decrease downtime and costs, and increase value for certified contracting businesses”, says Dionne Olsen, ForestFit Project Manager.
Austimber Harvesting & Haulage is already benefiting from being one of the early adopter ForestFit certified businesses.
“We are already seeing the cost savings from becoming a ForestFit-certified forest contracting business,” says Ian Reid, Austimber Harvesting & Haulage Managing Director.
“We received lower insurance rates and better financing. Our broker said that being a certified business was recognised as lowering our risk profile.”
“More importantly, as a Director of this business, the biggest value of being ForestFit certified is that I sleep better at night knowing we have the right systems in place, which has been confirmed through independent third-party annual audits.”
Australia’s first national standard for forest contractors
In April, Wood Central revealed that ForestFit established Australia’s first national Standard for forest contracting businesses.
“The emphasis for ForestFit was on developing and formalising business management practices, which we believed would further strengthen risk management and auditing consistency for businesses,” explained Ms Olsen.
The ForestFit Standard utilises the requirements outlined by AS/NZS ISO/IEC 9001, 14001 and 45001.
The criteria were developed with a risk-based approach for management systems and further contextualised for FCBs undertaking harvest, haul, civil, silviculture and / or minor forest products operations.
ForestFit criteria have been benchmarked to ensure alignment with relevant contracting business criteria within recognised Australian Forestry Certifications – the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Responsible Wood (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, PEFC).
Significantly, ForestFit is reducing duplication and is now being used by forest growers as a lead indicator, assuring that contracting businesses have all the necessary systems and these are audited annually by an independent third party.
“ForestFit strengthens the viability of contracting businesses by providing support and resources that allow them to pursue continual improvement and meet their business goals,” according to Mr Lester.
“Providing a whole-of-business approach to support sustainable, safe and environmental business practices is a ‘win-win’ for the future viability of the whole industry.”
“Part of the challenge for our industry is moving past the’ tick and flick.
“To make auditing meaningful, we want to identify intent, value and outcome of current processes and practices and build on that to create a better approach.”
Visit the ForestFit website to find out more.