$130,000 in fines and reparation for death of worker

2 October 2015

Forestry contractor M&A Cross has been ordered to pay $130,000  in the Rotorua District Court on Friday after earlier pleading guilty to breaching safety law for the death of forestry worker Charles Finlay.

His widow, Maryanne Butler-Finlay, said Finlay's death, had a deep impact on her, the couple's son Charles Junior and their daughters Shelby and Sharneica. Butler-Finlay said that the family was among the last to know about the accident which claimed Finlay's life on July 19, 2013, was one of the hardest things to bear. So was the subsequent rumour - quashed by Judge Marie Mckenzie - that suggested that Finlay may have been at fault for the accident.

"Charles' untimely and tragic death has scarred us. The day Charles died was the worst day of my life," she said.  "It still hurts deeply that everyone knew before me. Sometimes I scream and shout in the shower. Emotionally since then I have felt like a robot."

The summary of facts revealed Finlay was not wearing a hard hat or a high-visibility night jacket while working in the Taumata Forest, in Kinleith, and described him as engaging a loader operator in conversation before the incident.

"He came to be standing at the rear of the truck's trailer which was still being loaded. A log, 4.3 metres long, 120mm in diameter and weighing 50 kilograms, struck Mr Finlay on his head and killed him. How Mr Finlay was struck is unclear."

Prosecution lawyer Simon Meikle, acting on behalf of the Council  of Trade Unions (CTU) which took up the case after WorkSafe declined to press charges, said the death of Finlay was "foreseeable, highly likely and obvious". However, defence lawyer John Coltman said the fact Finlay was not wearing a hard hat or high-visibility clothing played no part in his death.

"It was the location that led to the accident, not his clothing. Loose notions of causation have no place in a criminal case," he said.

Ordering reparation payments totalling $105,000 - $60,000 to Butler-Finlay and $15,000 each to the three children, and a fine of $25,000 - Judge Marie Mckenzie said the financial sums were "not an attempt to put a value on a life lost".

Speaking outside court, Butler-Finlay described her feeling as "surreal". "I'm really glad the judge found Charles wasn't at fault," she said.

CTU President Helen Kelly said the outcome was a vindication for the decision to launch the case, and that it set a precedent for forestry safety.

Source: Stuff story by Benn Bathgate. To read the full story >>