Logging safety claims 'not always accurate'

By John Maslin

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A Wanganui logging manager says while the industry may say it is well regulated and monitored, it sometimes falls short of the mark.

Jason Ashworth, who has been involved in the industry for 25 years, works for Forest Management in its Wanganui office and he manages a crew of six men cutting out forests in the Wanganui region.

The company has similar managers working in Timaru, Christchurch, Blenheim, Nelson, Wellington and Napier.

"The rules are simple: no one should fell [trees] by themselves. That's the accepted rule," Mr Ashworth told the Chronicle.

He was asked to comment on training and safety standards within the forestry industry after the tragic death of 23-year-old Reece Joseph Reid, who was killed while working in the northern Wairarapa area on Tuesday.

Mr Reid died when a tree he had cut became entangled in another and fell on him.

It prompted the Council of Trade Unions to say the death - the 13th in three years - implied some serious health and safety issues.

Mr Reid is the second Wanganui forestry worker to die this year. In April, Glenn Simon Giltrap died when he was crushed by a tree while working in a forestry block near Brunswick.

Mr Ashworth, himself a trainer and assessor in the industry, said the industry often talked up its vigilance in terms of workplace safety practices but not all were as good as their word.

"There are some companies that don't strictly assess their workplace practices as much as others," he said.

"We haven't got a government inspector working on this side of the island either and I would definitely be happier if there was one," he said.

"If we get a rap over the knuckles all well and good because this is a dangerous occupation."

He said his company constantly monitored its logging crews.

"The crew boss on the site has that responsibility. It's his job to check the workers during every work period so that means they're being monitored several times during a working day," Mr Ashworth said.

"The training has to be rigorous because [the job] demands it."

He said that generally it would be at least a year on the job before any new worker would be allowed to fell trees.

"There's a lot they have to understand before they're at that stage," he said.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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