Report: Aussie Forestry Can Become Champions in Safety!

Amanda Bell is one of 160 Gottstein fellows awarded since the Trusts inception in 1971.

Tue 11 Jun 24


When it comes to safety, the Australian forest industry can learn from other countries but ultimately must do things “its own way”—that’s according to Amanda Bell, the Australian forest products industry’s “go-to” for Workplace Health and Safety. Her Gottstein Trust Fellowship resulted in the publication of her report, “Identifying Opportunities for Improvement in Safety Capability and Leadership in the Australian Forest Industry.”

Ms Bell, who joined the Australian industry as the inaugural Forest Industry Safety Manager (FISM) in 2021, has extensive experience working in high-risk industries, primarily within the building and construction sector.

The Gottstein Fellowship enabled her to travel extensively throughout New Zealand, exploring opportunities for Australia’s forest industry including the adoption of a new industry-wide forest safety agency, a bottom-up culture program focused on worker well-being and further enhancing trans-Tasman relationships. The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) was supportive with some additional trip funding.

The trip to New Zealand, which included visits to Tokoroa, Rotorua, Tauranga, Taupo, and Wellington, was an eye-opening experience. “New Zealand and Australia have many of the same challenges – including attracting and retaining workers, getting the safety message to the people on the ground, an aging working population, worker competency and certification”, and a “reputation and legacy of being a dangerous industry.”

“They also have many of the same risks”, including “fatigue, fire, truck and machinery rollover and the mechanisation of harvesting operations.”

“Like Australia, New Zealand has a huge housing shortage in regional communities – which rely on the forest economy, and both have major problems with work stress.”

However, since establishing the Forest Industry Safety Council (FISC) in 2020, the New Zealand industry has experienced a noticeable decline in fatalities and other work-related injuries and illness’ (FIC Safetree Dashboard Dec 2021).

“The FISC is an industry-led body with the mandate to collaborate across the full plantation forestry sector, representing one voice in health and safety,” Ms Bell said in her report, adding that “It was the primary motivation to undertake this Gottstein Fellowship…to apply some of the learnings here in Australia.”

Amanda Bell is a leader in Australian safety, and last month, she opened the Australian Institute of Health and Safety “(AIHS) National Health and Safety Conference. (Photo Credit: Amanda Bell)

Speaking to Wood Central about the report, Ms Bell is full of ideas and aspirations to improve the safety culture across the industry. 

“Key opportunities include establishing a work-ready forestry orientation course, a ‘roving reps’ style program for Australia, establishing a new trans-Tasman forest safety alliance, developing a FISC-style agency or council in Australia, improving data collection across the industry”, and most importantly of all, “exploring new ways to look at risk.”

“Any of the opportunities identified in the report can be easily and cost-effectively implemented using the industry’s existing expertise and resources,” Ms Bell said.

Having been freshly appointed for a new three-year term with the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) – the country’s peak body for forest products, Ms Bell is busy implementing several recommendations in the industry.

A key player in the Forest Fit certification programme – which signed an MOU agreement with AFPA last month, she is now working on three key industry projects.

It includes fatigue mitigation and management strategies, addressing unauthorised access by members of the public to active harvest areas and developing online training programs to fill some of the skills and training gaps.

The Gottstein Trust has awarded 160 Fellowships since inception in 1971. Many Fellows in industry leadership positions today can attest to the lasting and vital impact of a Gottstein Fellowship on their career and professional development. 

To learn more about the Gottstein Fellowship, visit the Gottstein Trust website. There are also Scholarships, Skill Development Grants and Course opportunities every year.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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