24 Aug 2012

CTU urges forestry safety action

7:30 am on 24 August 2012

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says forest owners need to stop making excuses for their poor safety record and explain how they intend to stop the carnage.

There have been 30 forestry deaths in the past six years,

Ms Kelly says the death toll in forests is 34 times higher than in the United Kingdom, where 14,000 people are employed in forestry - double the number working in New Zealand forests.

She says that the CTU recognises the importance of drug-testing of workers, and that there has been a decrease in drug use.

But Ms Kelly says if forest owners are to save lives they need to address various issues, including ensuring workers' hours are reasonable, dangerous work areas are carefully managed and all staff are trained, with their health and safety looked after.

The Forest Owners Association says Ms Kelly is misinformed. Health, safety and training committee chairperson Sheldon Drummond says to compare New Zealand's death rate with Britain's is laughable, as the industries are completely different.

"The terrain is different, the tree size is different, the mechanisation level's different, and goodness only knows how their safety statistics are comprised."

Mr Drummond says the industry is not comfortable with the accident rate and is "striding ahead" in tackling the issue.