13 Jun 2014

$80,000 fine for forestry accident

1:51 pm on 13 June 2014

A forestry company has been ordered to pay $120,000 for failing to protect a worker who was hit by a log weighing more than a tonne.

WorkSafe New Zealand told the Gisborne District Court Tau Henare was on a logging operation at Whakaangiangi, on the East Coast, when the incident occurred in September 2012.

Mr Henare was hit by a log which had come loose from the jaws of a loader on a landing above him and slid down a steep hillside. He suffered arm and leg fractures which had required multiple surgeries and left him unable to work.

The company, HarvestPro New Zealand Limited, was fined $80,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $40,000.

Mr Henare's job was to attach strops to fallen logs, which were then dragged up a hillside to be prepared for transport away from the forest.

Judge Tony Adeane found the accident was caused by the decision to allow Mr Henare to enter the danger zone at the same time the loader was stacking logs above him. Better communication and supervision could have limited the hazard, he said.

WorkSafe New Zealand Health and Safety Operations general manager Ona de Rooy said the work Mr Henare was doing was inherently dangerous, and HarvestPro had a duty to do more to protect his safety.

"Much of the forestry work in New Zealand is done on steep hillsides. It is not just the felling of trees that is dangerous - workers are at risk whenever logs are being handled and moved," Ms de Rooy said.

"WorkSafe NZ is working hard with the forestry industry to improve safety standards across the board. Our inspectors have carried out more than 220 inspections of log removal operations since August and issued almost 300 enforcement notices, including 25 prohibition notices.

"That work, as well as this prosecution and fine, sends a clear message to the industry about their duty to protect workers at every stage of the tree harvesting process."