16 Jan 2014

'Change needed' in forestry industry

10:29 pm on 16 January 2014

WorkSafe New Zealand says a forestry death in Marlborough so early in the new year shows the sector needs to change its behaviour.

The Council of Trade Unions believes 24 forestry workers have died on the job since 2008. Last year alone, 10 died and more than 150 forestry workers were seriously injured.

On Thursday morning, a worker was killed in an accident at Wairau Valley, while in the Bay of Plenty a man felling trees west of Ruatoki was taken to hospital with moderate injuries.

Police said the 53-year old Marlborough man was leading a crew of four on a private forestry block and was struck by a falling log about 10am, killing him instantly. An accident investigation is under way and Victim Support is assisting the other workers present.

WorkSafe New Zealand says it has identified an alarming rate of non-compliance among cable logging operators.

General manager of health and safety operations Ona de Rooy said on Thursday almost half of 162 operators it visited were not complying with the industry code and 15 were shut down because they were so dangerous.

"The evidence that we've gathered certainly leads us to conclude that there are some deeply ingrained systemic issues in the industry. But the important thing to note is that there is the framework and safety standards or rules which, if they were consistently applied, could make men safe on the hill today."

Ms de Rooy said all powers available will be used to tackle the issue.

A Tokoroa woman whose husband died in a forestry accident in July last year said the Government should regulate the industry to prevent more workers dying, but the Government has resisted calls to do so.

However, it says new health and safety legislation is being introduced at the end of January to make forestry owners and bosses more responsible for worker safety.

On Tuesday, a contractor was fined $135,000 over the death of forestry worker Robert Ruri-Epapara, 23, who was crushed and killed by a falling tree near Lake Rotoiti in March 2013.