Dislodged tree injures feller

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Work colleagues watch as a man seriously injured in a forestry accident is loaded into a rescue helicopter.
Work colleagues watch as a man seriously injured in a forestry accident is loaded into a rescue helicopter.

A forestry worker has been seriously injured near Whakatane after being hit by a tree while cutting down another.

The TrustPower TECT rescue helicopter was dispatched to Ruatoki, near Whakatane, at 10.30am yesterday where the tree feller was hit by a ponga dislodged by a tree he was felling. The man, who the rescue helicopter staff said was 39, received shoulder, back and leg injuries. He was treated at the scene by St John paramedics before being flown to Tauranga Hospital for further treatment.

A Worksafe spokesman said investigators attended the scene yesterday. It was not yet known how the accident happened or exactly what injuries the man had suffered.

The spokesman said the injured man had been back at work for only 10 days following the routine festive-season holiday shutdown.

The injury followed the death of another forestry worker yesterday in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough.

That incident was reported just before 10am, and the man was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later by ambulance staff.

Ten workers died in forestry accidents around New Zealand last year, and the high death toll has drawn criticism over health and safety practices.

This week a logging company was fined $60,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $75,000 for health and safety failings that led to the death of Rotorua forestry worker Robert Epapara.

Complete Logging was sentenced on Tuesday in the Rotorua District Court after Mr Epapara, 23, was hit and killed by a tree felled by another crew member in the Waione Forest near Lake Rotoiti on March 26 last year.

At the end of last year the Council of Trade Unions renewed calls for greater Government regulation of the forestry industry.

WorkSafe New Zealand Health and Safety Operations general manager Ona de Rooy said the death and a serious injury in the forest sector was deeply saddening. After delivering an appalling safety record in 2013, to have a death just 16 days into the New Year demonstrated how much the sector needed to change its behaviour, she said.

"We have identified an alarming rate of safety noncompliance amongst cable logging operators - nearly half of the 162 we've visited weren't operating in compliance with the industry code and we had to take 203 enforcement actions to force those operators to comply. We had to shut 15 of them down they were so dangerous," Ms de Rooy said. "We are so concerned at this level of unsafe practice that we have sought meetings with individual forest owners to make very clear to them that they have significant responsibilities under the Health and Safety in Employment.

"We will want to see their safety plans for the contractor crews demonstrate active management of safety standards. If they are deficient, we will be holding them to account."

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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