Union slates safety code for forestry

By Katie Holland, Teuila Fuatai


Rotorua MP Todd McClay has introduced  the Government's new forestry sector safety code but unions warn it will do little to cut New Zealand's horrific forestry accident rate.

Mr McClay presented the 133-page  Approved Code of Practice for Safety and Health in Forest Operations during the Forest Industry Contractors Association's annual conference in Rotorua yesterday.

The forestry sector has the highest rate of fatal work-related injuries in New Zealand and the rate of ACC claims for

the forestry sector is almost six times the rate for all sectors.

Government figures show at least 100 forestry workers were injured in the Bay of Plenty region in the past  five years.

In June,  a 49-year-old man was killed in Opotiki after being hit by a falling branch. On the same day, a worker in Gisborne died after being crushed by logs which rolled on to him from a log stack.

Nationwide, at least 871 forestry workers were hurt on the job in the past five years and at least five workers have died this year.

The new code will support the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's forestry harm reduction campaign. It focuses mainly on tree felling and breaking out _ the process of removing a tree from the forest _ which account for the most  ``serious harm'' accidents.

First Union Rotorua organiser Rawiri Daniels said the new code was going to do little for worker safety.

"I'm seriously not convinced that one code is going to fix it up,'' he said.

"My view is that there is not enough enforcement to ensure that there is adequate and sufficient training and proper

health and safety procedures are in place.''

Mr McClay said the Government and industry needed to do more to prevent serious harm accidents and fatalities, the majority of which had been young, Maori men.

"The launch of this Approved Code of Practice is a big step towards reducing the work toll in the forestry sector.

"Too many workers are seriously injured or killed while undertaking forestry operations, particularly in the tasks

of tree felling and breaking out.


"The new code aims to `lift the bar' and introduce standards that will help the sector improve its health and safety

record,'' Mr McClay said.

He said the Minister of Labour had set a target of reducing workplace deaths and serious injuries by at least 25 per cent by 2020.

The code, to be rolled out at workshops for workers between January and April next year, has no regulatory force and employers are not legally required to comply, although Mr McClay said in most cases compliance with the

code would satisfy the requirements of the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

However the code has been slammed by the Council of Trade Unions.

CTU president Helen Kelly said it 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 learned 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.''

Standards which held employers accountable for poor safety practices had to be enforced, Ms Kelly said.

John Stulen, Forestry Industry Contractors Association chief executive from Rotorua, said those in the industry had

been pro-active over the past year in contributing to the new code.

He said the rules had been updated twice in the past 15 years and on both those occasions there had been a reduction in injuries, so he was confident the code would have an impact.

 

- Rotorua Daily Post

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