New measures for forestry safety

New initiatives to cut New Zealand's horrific forestry sector accident rate have been announced, with the new code of practice setting out guidelines for complying with health and safety regulations.

But unions have attacked the new measures as inadequate and say officials have learned nothing from the Pike River Mine disaster. The code also lacks any regulatory force as employers are not legally required to comply, they say.

The forestry sector has the country's highest rate of fatal work-related injuries and its ACC claims are almost six times the rate for all sectors.

Government figures show at least 66 forest workers were injured in the Wanganui-Manawatu region in the last five years.

Just last week, 23-year-old Wanganui man Reece Joseph Reid was killed after being crushed by a falling tree near Pongaroa, south of Dannevirke.

On the same day a 49-year-old worker had his legs crushed by a tree in the Kaingaroa Forest, near Rotorua.

Local man Glenn Simon Giltrap also died in April this year after being crushed by a tree while working in a forestry block near Brunswick.

His widow, Tracey Giltrap, said she was pleased industry safety practices had been reviewed.

"I know that when Glenn passed away it was because of his actions.

"I don't think it was anything to do with safety or anything; I think it was just his choice and how he felled that tree.

"It was like a freak accident."

Jason Ashworth, who works for ForestManagement in Wanganui, said the new code looked fair and reasonable.

People within the industry were the main problem, he said.

"If I hire a crew, it's up to my company to make sure that I hire these guys that are qualified or trained ... and they don't take short cuts.

"The workers are responsible - they are the ones who are going to bend the rules or take short cuts and everyone has a responsibility."

Mr Ashworth said everyone in the sector - contractors, managers, workers - had to step up.

CTU president Helen Kelly said the code was drafted with no worker input and reflected the industry's complete disregard for safety.

"We are absolutely outraged by these standards and we think it shows the Department of Labour has learnt nothing from the Pike River disaster.

"By promulgating these standards in the manner that they're written, they're basically now complicit in the dangerous practices in the forestry industry."

In the last three years 13 forestry workers had died on the job, Ms Kelly said.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment injury figures show at least 871 forestry workers were hurt on the job in the past five years. At least five workers have died in accidents this year alone.

 

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