Death of another forestry worker

Fiona’s blog:

Sadly we heard on Tuesday that a tree feller was struck and killed by a tree while working at Pohangina, in the Manawatu. This is the fifth death of a forestry worker in 2018. My thoughts are with the family, friends and workmates of the victim.

I was asked by the media to comment on this latest death, and I thought I’d share with you what I told them. You can see my answers to the questions below.

If you’ve been affected by a serious injury or death at work, there are resources available to help you. See our website for more details.



This is the fifth forestry-related death this year, how concerned are you?

  • It is absolutely unacceptable for people to lose their lives at work.
  • Everyone who goes to work deserves to come home unharmed. Five deaths is five too many.
  • It is essential that the industry, government, and workers and unions work together to stop these deaths occurring.

How confident are you in WorkSafe’s enforcement of regulation?

  • As the regulator, WorkSafe plays an important role in ensuring people know their obligations, and in holding them to account when they don’t meet these obligations.
  • But WorkSafe can’t put an inspector into every forestry site. The industry has to lead and take responsibility for keeping its people safe.
  • The industry leading and changing the mind-set around health and safety will create more sustainable change than a compliance focus.

What more needs to be done to keep the industry safe?

  • The challenges facing forestry are well known and were spelt out in 2014 by the Independent Forestry Safety Review.
  • Among other things, the review highlighted contractual arrangements that sometimes don’t support good health and safety, the design of forestry blocks which can make trees more dangerous to harvest, a lack of training for workers and crew owners, and a overall lack of leadership by those at the top of the industry.
  • The review made several recommendations to address these problems, including the creation of the Forest Industry Safety Council to lead harm reduction initiatives in forestry. FISC (which runs Safetree) is working to implement the Review’s recommendations.

What is FISC doing to help improve health and safety?

FISC’s flagship initiatives are:

  • Certification schemes for workers and contractors to ensure they have the skills to do the job.
  • A safety culture programme that gives workers a voice in improving health and safety in their workplaces.
  • Providing easy-to-understand information for forestry companies on how to manage critical risks, and show-casing work being done by industry leaders to improve health and safety.

What’s your message to the forestry industry?

  • There are forest owners, managers, contractors and workers out there who are doing great work to improve health and safety. They should be applauded for that.
  • They are showing that it is possible to work safely in forestry. Many companies are investing in equipment like mechanised harvesters, which removes people from doing the most dangerous tasks. Many are investing in training their people and contractors to ensure they have the skills needed to work safely.
  • What’s interesting is that a lot of work is being done to build ‘people skills’ and better working relationships, rather than just focusing on achieving compliance.
  • For example, many companies are focusing on ensuring work arrangements support good health and safety, so contractors aren’t under pressure to work in dangerous conditions. They’re focusing on building long-term relationships, so contractors have the financial security needed to invest in their equipment and people. And they’re focusing on improving leadership that, for example, supports people to stop work for safety if need-be.

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