Safety focus on forestry workers

A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment project is intended to ensure forestry workers return home safely.

Six forestry workers have died on the job this year - in the Bay of Plenty (2), Gisborne, Nelson, Taranaki and Waikato regions.

Ministry health and safety operations director Ona de Rooy said it was ''an awful toll'' and its effects spread through communities.

Ms de Rooy was in Balclutha on Tuesday presenting the Safer Forest Harvesting project to the Southern forestry industry. The nationwide project was designed to reduce the death and injury toll in forestry and was split into four ''phases'', she said.

Phase one, to begin next week, consisted of assessing contractors and crews on their ''breaking-out'' practices.

Breaking-out was the process of gathering logs and hauling them to skid sites, and was identified by ACC as one of the two biggest causes of harm in forestry, along with tree felling.

In phase two, in the new year period, ministry inspectors would follow up those contractors and crews deemed to have poor performance.

In phase three, scheduled for February-March, the ministry would concentrate on safe tree-felling practices, and in phase four the ministry would look at ''contributing factors'' such as fatigue, production issues, training and supervision.

''We will be taking a strong enforcement line during these visits, and companies, contractors and crews can expect enforcement action if they're not meeting their obligations under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.''

There were eight health and safety inspectors and two trainees within the health and safety group of the ministry.

She said the ministry had produced unambiguous guidelines on health and safety for the industry and everyone had to commit to them and implement them.

The 12-month project was part of starting discussion about the human face of harm in the forestry industry, and had ''good engagement'' with those working in the industry, she said.

''That's what we're about - making sure forestry workers go home safely.''

Ministry investigators have found 51-year-old Nicholas David McKenzie, of Tuatapere, died on a farm on Monday while assisting a farmer cutting logs on a rural property when he was hit and killed by machinery. Mr McKenzie was a freezing worker, not a forestry worker.

- helena.dereus@odt.co.nz

 

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