Arbuckle's Forestry Crews

August 2010

A safety-conscious forestry operation

Danny Arbuckle is a forestry contractor running two hauler crews that work in a rugged and often dangerous environment of the NZ forestry industry.

Hes well regarded in the industry he treats his crews like family and both crews have won awards both for safety and skills.

Danny is from Tokoroa. Danny is 42 years old and has been in forestry since leaving school. Hes married to Janine and they have three children and live in outskirts of Whakatane.

Danny was lined up by Ribbonwood Forest Harvesting for a job around Putaruru. Ribbonwood is a series of partnerships with a centralised administration covering training, compliance, health and safety.

After many years of working in forestry Danny set up his own business in the late 90s. He established two hauler crews specialising in getting logs out of steep tricky places. They do the harvesting, grading of timber and loading onto trucks. He covers a logging area from Whakatane to Napier and Taupo.

The centre of operations for both crews is in the Matahina Forest.

Dannys partnership arrangement with Ribbonwood led him to buy two crews. These crews tend to work pretty much in the same way as a shearing contractor might have separate crews that are sent out to shearing sheds.

Danny says logging has been tough going and a lot of contractors have pulled the plug over the years. He currently contracts to Rayonier (for the last 3 years) with one crew and Timberlands with another. The bottom line is that he needs to meet targets and get the timber to where it supposed to be and work to a cut plan. Hes paid on tonnage and expects his crews to manage around 300 ton per day.

In terms of staff he says it is dangerous and he cant afford to employee people just of the street. They need to have basic training and then meet ongoing training expectations. The industry is one of the most dangerous in the country. According to Department of Labour stats - in 2009 four people died and there were around 160 serious injuries.

A fair bit of Dannys time is spent tendering for work. He looks at the site, calculates the tonnes per day that his crew are likely to be able to get out of the site.

If they are successful with a tender the forestry owner has the responsibility of preparing the site for logging - roads, engineering work, run off soaks etc.

Their responsibility is to keep the owners processor supplied with a tonnage. At the end of each working day the site foreman has to order log trucks for the following morning and the tallies on tonnage are kept track of by the number of truck and trailer loads leaving the bush.

Dannys very big on safety and proudly runs a tight operation. He gets the gang all together prior to starting and creates a positive crew culture. Hes made a DVD looking at health and safety in the logging industry. Danny had a work buddy who died in the forest and this has made him very safety conscious.

The gang also has developed a system of faller check-in which means the fallers check in every half hour. They keep a log book, audit their own performance including noting any hazards or problems and assesses their own well being (emotional and physical). A panic alarm is also built into this. This appears to be a patented idea. The alarm sits on the chest, so even if the faller is trapped he can still hit the button.

All the crews are subject to drug monitoring. Theres an annual health check for staff and randoms- any time within a 3 month period the crews are tested for drugs. That involves a urine sample being taken. They test for THC P and all the other usual suspects. The idea is that industry is dangerous enough without having to worry about people being high.

Each day starts with crew being picked up in the early hours. Work begins on the skid site at 7am. Theyre paid from 6.30am to ensure they are well prepared and ready to go.

Arbuckles have 3 diggers, a dozer, a T-bar machine, haulers and skidders.

Theres a lot of specialised equipment in the logging operations.

Warratahs removes the lighter limbs, measures and trims the log. Working well it can cut and grade logs - but the log maker checks this.

Gear costs are a major a hauler is $1.5 million; a Warratah about $0.5 million just the head alone costs $280,000.

Haulers seem to come in a number of categories Danny crews use a swing yarder. If gear breaks down that has an obvious impact on the tonnages hes expected to meet each day. Danny has two mechanics working full time on gear. His main guy is Gene.

There are essentially three types of crew:

1. Ground based that work on essentially flat land with no need for haulers.

2. Salvage crews that do the clearing, roading and infrastructure

3. Hauler crew that do the hard yards in the more difficult terrain. These are Dannys two crews.

Danny says his years in the bush with gangs taught him a lot about being a good employer. If you want to be treated as an idiot treat your employees the same way.

Crew 86s manager is Pera Ranui. Danny says they are like a family. They look after each other. The rest of the crew is: Toots, Sharlene log maker, Daniel faller, Bob, Steve Rist hauler, Ian Black spotter, Rangi loader driver.

This is a competition that is very health and safety orientated. Crew 86 won this award for BOP in 2009 and won the competition for the whole of NZ in 2007. Theyve also won the same or similar award several years in a row.