Panel to ponder forestry dangers

By Imran Ali

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Nearly 100 forestry workers have been seriously injured in Northland in the past six years and one person has died. Photo/Supplied
Nearly 100 forestry workers have been seriously injured in Northland in the past six years and one person has died. Photo/Supplied

Nearly 100 forestry workers have been seriously injured in Northland in the past six years and one person has died.

The figures from WorkSafe New Zealand come as a three-member independent forestry safety review panel is appointed to identify the likely causes and contributing factors to the high rate of serious injuries and fatalities.

In 2008 there were 18 serious accidents in Northland forests, 10 in 2009, 14 in 2010, 19 in 2011, 24 in 2012 and 11 last year.

Bay of Plenty and Waikato had the highest rates of serious injuries at 112 and 103 respectively as most of the logging is done in those regions.

Twenty-eight people have died in the forestry and logging sector throughout New Zealand since 2008.

In undertaking the review, the panel will examine the health and safety structure and culture of the forestry sector.

That will include reviewing health and safety education and training.

It also intends to consult widely, including with those affected by serious injuries and fatalities in forestry.

At the review's conclusion, the panel will recommend a package of practical measures expected to result in a significant reduction in the rate of serious injuries and fatalities in the forestry sector over the next five years.

Paul Nicholls, managing director of forest owner Rayonier, said the review was timely despite the fact that there had been a reduction in serious harm and injuries in the past 30 years.

His company employed harvesting crews in and out of Northland, including Glenbervie in Whangarei.

"Harvesting of logs in Northland has increased quite dramatically in the last three years and there's no reason why we can't bring the number of injuries and fatalities down to zero," he said.

"That may be hard but everyone should be able to go home in the state they came to work in."

Mr Nicholls said weather and topography were the biggest challenges log harvesters faced.

Review panel chairman George Adams said it was clear change had to take place in forestry and logging because the sectors were too dangerous.

"The panel wants to get all the issues on the table, even those that are well known.

"It is important for people to tell the panel if we have missed something in our summary of the issues that is essential to improving safety."

The panel has organised a public meeting in Whangarei on June 20.

Those wishing to attend can register their interest on info@ifsr.co.nz

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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