There was a culture of acceptance of the "huge raft" of
health and safety breaches at a forestry contractor company
before a young worker was killed, an inquest has heard.
Reece Joseph Reid died on November 27, 2012 while felling
trees for Taupo-based Great Lakes Harvesting company at a
forestry block near Pongaroa, south of Dannevirke. He was
working unsupervised when a hung tree - one he had been cut
but was resting above on another tree - fell down and killed
The two-day inquest into the death of the 23-year-old
adjourned today at the Coroner's Court in Rotorua before
Coroner Wallace Bain.
WorkSafe New Zealand Lynda West was the final witness to be
called and said there were several breaches of the Health and
Safety in Employment Act made by the company.
These included inadequate supervision of Mr Reid who only had
days' experience tree felling and failing to report within 24
hours of tree felling to WorkSafe NZ.
There was also a lack of proper working hours with the crew
having to be picked up at 4.30am, driving two hours to the
forestry site, finishing at 3.30pm before driving another two
hours back home. Backpacker accommodation closer to the site
was offered to the workers but they would have to pay for it
Mr Reid had also driven the work van despite being a
disqualified driver and two weeks after he started had not
been given the proper safety footwear required, which the
crew also needed to reimburse the company for.
Mrs West said the day of Mr Reid's death was not the first
time he was left unsupervised felling trees. According to
health and safety legislation, he needed "close one-on-one
supervision" while still undergoing training.
His supervisor Michael Thomas gave evidence yesterday that he
was in direct sight of Mr Reid but was working on a loader
about 100m away from him. He and company director Murray
Clunie said during the inquest specific instructions were
given to Mr Reid not to start felling until Mr Thomas joined
him but Mrs West said there was no evidence to support that
Mr Reid disregarded instructions.
"It wasn't out of character for Mr Reid to be working on his
own while Mike was working on the loader," she said.
An employee from another forestry company had submitted a
critical report of Great Lake Harvesting's practices saying
he didn't want "cowboy operators like Murray working in this
Mr Clunie denied yesterday that he had a "flippant" attitude
towards health and safety, which was supported by Mrs West,
but said he did lack respect of the policies which was
reflected throughout the company.
In October, Great Lake Harvesting was fined $67,500 and
ordered to pay $60,000 in reparation for failing to take all
practicable steps to keep Mr Reid safe.
The inquest was adjourned to allow Dr Bain to receive expert
- Dana Kinita of the Rotorua Daily Post