Wenita Forest Products chief executive David Cormack (centre) shares breakfast and a joke with contractors Reece Niper (left) and August Pirere at the Taieri Rugby Club yesterday morning. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The dangers of the bush provided food for thought for a large
block of forestry workers yesterday.
More than 200 Wenita forestry staff and contractors were sent
off to their first day of work in 2014 with full stomachs and
a message to be careful out there.
The breakfast was held to remind staff of the inherent
dangers in the forestry industry, Wenita Forest Products
chief executive David Cormack said yesterday.
''Last year was an extremely disappointing year for accidents
in the industry and we wanted to take the initiative,'' Mr
''Forestry is a high-hazard industry, but there are certainly
ways of reducing those hazards. Everybody who goes into our
forests should expect to go home unharmed at the end of the
Forestry is New Zealand's most dangerous profession - 10
workers were killed and 90 seriously injured last year.
Last year's deaths included Otago forestry worker Mark James
Rogan (45), who died from an infection caused by being struck
in the throat with a piece of wood, in an accident at the
Tokoiti Forest, in Milton, on May 6 last year.
''Fatalities aren't that common in these parts,'' Mr Cormack
''We have a strong safety focus here and our guys are all
highly-trained, professional people who take a lot of pride
in their careers.''
The sector had an average five fatalities a year over the
past six years and 31 forestry workers have been killed and
more than 900 seriously injured since 2008, according to the
Chief Coroner's Office.
A New Zealand forestry worker is six times more likely to die
at work than a British forestry worker and twice as likely as
an Australian forestry worker.
An independent review led by the industry and unions is due
to start next month.
"We'll be very keen to see the results, and any
recommendations for the industry, from that,'' Mr Cormack
A WorkSafe New Zealand assessment of cable hauling operations
since August had uncovered ''some alarming systemic issues in
this industry'', acting chief executive Geoffrey Podger said
''There's a problem in this industry and it won't be solved
until everyone's on the same course with the regulator. From
162 visits now done, we've had to take enforcement action 203
times; including shutting down 15 operations because of
imminent danger of injury or death.''
The Council of Trade Unions has accused the Government of
''turning a blind eye'' to safety in the forestry industry
and called for regulation of hours of work, training, wages,
poor weather provisions and fatigue.
Bay of Plenty coroner Wallace Bain will also hold inquests
into five forestry deaths in March, with the aim of exposing
systemic problems in the industry.
While agreeing the safety record in the forestry sector was
''unacceptable'', Labour Minister Simon Bridges has ruled out
an inquiry and, instead, called on forest managers to take
more responsibility for safety through their entire supply
WorkSafe NZ said there were ''significant lessons'' for the
industry, after Complete Logging Ltd was fined $60,000 in the
Rotorua District Court yesterday.
The company was also ordered to pay $75,000 reparation for
health and safety failings, after forestry worker Robert
Epapara (23) was killed by a tree felled by a colleague in
the Waione Forest near Lake Rotoiti on March 26 last year.
''Forestry companies must apply the approved code of practice
for forest harvesting. If Complete Logging Ltd had applied
it, the chances are Mr Epapara would be here today,'' health
and safety operations general manager Ona de Rooy said
''We will also be meeting all forestry companies over the
coming weeks to determine how they're managing safety issues
with their contractors. We will be forcefully reminding them
that they have duties to ensure contractors are putting the
safety of their men first.''
Each year, an average of 75 people die and 6000 suffer
serious injury in New Zealand workplaces.
Forestry deaths 2013
January 11: Eramiha Pairama (19), struck by a tree near
January 17: John Sanderson (40), struck by a branch,
February 18: Robert Thompson (43), hit in head when rope
snapped, near Thames.
March 26: Robert Epapara (23), crushed by tree, near Rotorua.
April 22: Adam Olsson (23), struck by falling tree, near
May 6: Mark James Rogan (45), struck in throat by piece of
wood, Tokoiti Forest, Milton.
July 19: Charles Finlay (45), struck on head by a shard of
log, northeast of Taupo.
November 26: David Charles Beamsley (63), died in logging
accident, near Murupara.
November 29: Michael Langford (28), pinned between logs, near
December 19: Lincoln Kidd (20), struck by falling tree, near