Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

New forestry fatality takes 2013 death toll to 10

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The new work safety regulator says it has real concerns about the forestry sector after a 20-year-old Levin man was killed by a falling tree this morning - the 10th forestry fatality this year.

Lincoln Kidd had been felling trees on a commercial forestry block off State Highway 1 near Oturoa Rd, between Levin and Foxton, when the incident happened about 6.45am.

His colleagues immediately notified emergency services and gave him first aid, but he died at the scene.

WorkSafe NZ said it was investigating the death and specialist forestry inspectors were on their way from Rotorua to assist.

Acting chief executive Geoffrey Podger said it was concerning that WorkSafe NZ had to deal with the 10th forestry death this year in only its first week of operation.

He said safety inspectors had been assessing every cable logging operation in the country since mid-August.

They had shut down almost one in 10 operators, or 15 of the 162 visited so far, and taken enforcement action 203 times.

Mr Podger said the review had given the regulator "real cause for concern about the state of the industry" and its commitment to keep workers safe.

"There's a problem in this industry and it won't be solved until everyone's on the same course with the regulator."

The number of deaths this year is twice the annual average, with four of the victims aged under 30.

The youngest, 19-year-old Eramiha Pairama, was struck by a tree near Whakatane in January.

Council of Trade Unions' president Helen Kelly, who has led the campaign for forestry safety reforms, said the training of younger forestry workers was inadequate and the work was now much harder than it once was.

"And these young people are being sent to their death."

Ms Kelly said the new forestry code of practice, introduced in December last year, was insufficient and weak.

"The Government needs to regulate this industry - it absolutely needs to regulate hours of work, training, wages, poor weather provisions, fatigue. It needs to regulate across the board."

Labour forestry spokesman Shane Jones said workplace safety resources were grossly inadequate to deal with the burgeoning demand for export timber, with only nine inspectors covering the entire forestry sector.

He has pleaded for a systemic inquiry to uncover how commercial forestry could be cleaned up.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges has ruled out an inquiry into the industry, but signalled support for an independent review led by the industry and unions.

The review's terms of reference had been set and it was due to start in February.

Last month, Mr Bridges said the number of fatalities in the forestry sector was too high and the safety record was not acceptable.

The sector has the nation's highest rate of workplace injury deaths, according to the Chief Coroner's office, with an average of five fatalities a year over the last six years.

Bay of Plenty Coroner Wallace Bain will hold inquests into five forestry deaths next year with the aim of casting light on systemic issues in the industry.

Read more: Soaring forestry death toll tears at hearts of victim's family

A timeline of tragedy

January 11 - Eramiha Pairama, 19. Struck by a tree near Whakatane.

January 17 - John Sanderson, 40. Died after a branch fell on him, severing his leg near Whangarei.

February 18 - Robert Thompson, 43, hit in head by a hook after a rope snapped. Thames area.

March 26 - Robert Epapara, 23. Struck by a tree and crushed while working near Rotorua.

April 22 - Adam Olsson. Hit in head by part of a falling tree near Waitara.

May 6 - Mark Rogan, 45. Died of an infection caused by a piece of wood that flew into his throat.

July 19 - Charles Finlay, 45. Struck on head by a log.

November 26 - David Charles Beamsley, 63, died in logging accident at a site near Murupara.

November 29 - Michael Langford, 28. Pinned between logs near Nelson.

- APNZ

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