30 Nov 2013

Union plea for action over forestry deaths

6:11 am on 30 November 2013

A union representing forestry workers says two fatal accidents this week prove the Government needs to do more to protect logging crews.

A 28-year-old man died on Friday afternoon at a private forestry site at Wakefield, south of Nelson, after being pinned between two logs. On Tuesday, a Bay of Plenty worker was killed. Nine forestry workers have died so far this year.

Initial inquiries indicate that the man was working alone on a hauler at the site off Foxhill Cemetery Road on Friday. Another worker discovered him shortly before he died.

Sergeant Rob Crawford said the man's colleagues are devastated. "They're traumatised by this, we are speaking to them and they've been offered victim support and they're also getting support from their families as well."

First Union general secretary Robert Reid said he was devastated to get the news on Friday afternoon.

"We really are speechless - this is the second forestry death this week. It seems that whatever we say, whatever the Council of Trade Unions say, that we just as a country have to do something about this appalling accident record. There seems to be no response at all from the Government.

"It's just shocking that it's going to take another death for us to try and get the message through to the Government that this is the equivalent of another Pike River every five or six years."

Ona de Rooy, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's health and safety spokesperson, said on Friday it has shut down 14 operations because they were dangerous, though no prosecutions have been taken.

"Prosecution is one of the options we may consider, but the immediate issue is that we've stopped the potential for harm, and that we take the steps necessary to make any sites safe or keep the work stopped if that's necessary."

Ms de Rooy said has been a tragic week for forestry and unacceptable. She said forest owners and managers can expect to have to answer some tough questions from the health and safety regulator.