27 Nov 2013

Forest conference puts focus on safety

9:15 am on 27 November 2013

The forest industry is bringing in North American experts to a conference this week to help it tackle the high injury and death rates in New Zealand plantations.

Family members of forestry workers who have died as a result of their job.

Family members of forestry workers who have died as a result of their job. Photo: RNZ

Despite the launch of a revised forest industry safety code, the high accident rate has continued with six fatalities and more than 80 serious injuries among forestry workers this year.

The Forest Industry Engineering Association is putting the issue under the spotlight with a safety summit at its two-day conference in Rotorua, which finishes on Wednesday.

One of the organisers, John Stulen of the Forest Industry Contractors Association, says speakers at the safety forum include two Canadian experts in the field from British Columbia.

Mr Stulen says this week's conference is also the starting point of a New Zealand forest safety review organised by contractors and forest owners.

"The Industry's always been aware that the move to steep slopes (harvesting) was imminent," he says.

"Last year a lot of the growth in harvesting was with a buoyant Chinese market ... our harvesting rate shot up, and unfortunately the accident and fatality rates shot up with it".

Along with the safety forum, the conference has a parallel event covering developments in new technology for steep slope wood harvesting, which will also reduce the risks for forestry workers.

A forestry worker and a safely felled pine in Rotorua Forest.

A forestry worker and a safely-felled pine in Rotorua Forest. Photo: PHOTO NZ