Forest safety review needs to find answers

30 April 2014

The Combined Trade Unions is to be praised for making health and safety the focus of this year's Workers' Memorial Day, say forest owners and contractors.

"The loss of forest workers through death and injury is a tragedy for everyone involved, most particularly for the victims, their families, friends and workmates. No job is worth dying for, so it is important that we look for any lessons that can be learned from these tragedies," says Forest Owners Association president Paul Nicholls.

"This is the role of the Independent Safety Review and the Coroners Court hearings now underway. They need to go beneath the emotion and the loss and take a hard look at the evidence to find out where the industry and individuals are going wrong ... to find out how we can all do things better."

He says the CTU is strongly advocating solutions to the accident toll, including stricter regulation of work practices.

Jacob Kajavala, president of the Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA), says "Forest owners and contractors also have views on what is needed but this is not the time for us or the CTU to be arguing our preferred policies in the public domain. That is why we are having a review.

"Forest owners, contractors and the CTU have all agreed on the terms of reference and membership of the review. It's now up to all of us to provide the review with solid evidence, so it can make robust recommendations.

"If the CTU has strong evidence to support the policies they are advocating, we urge them to present it to the review. If there is evidence that accidents are occurring because workers are over-worked, under-paid and exhausted, as the CTU claims, this also belongs with the review."

Mr Nicholls says that the Forest Owners Association is not sitting on its hands waiting for the review and the Coroners Court to present their findings. Programmes currently being developed or underway include tree-falling and breaking-out certification, safety culture workshops, contractor certification and small business guides.

"ACC and MBIE support is needed to get these off the ground – support which now appears to be forthcoming."

For more information, please ring Paul Nicholls, Tel 09 357 9119 or 027 595 8708