Forestry employers 'on notice' after falling tree death

Last updated 05:00 04/09/2014
Lincoln Kidd
KILLED: Lincoln Kidd, who was killed on the job by a falling tree.

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All forestry employers are now "on notice" after police took the rare step of laying manslaughter charges over the death of a young Levin man, the Council of Trade Unions says.

Lincoln Kidd, 20, was crushed by a falling pine tree while working with others on a forestry block between Levin and Foxton in December 2013.

A 46-year-old Horowhenua man was charged yesterday with his manslaughter. The man will appear in the Levin District Court today. He is also facing serious workplace health and safety charges, brought by WorkSafe NZ.

Kidd and his colleagues were working on the ground cutting limbs off a tree when he was struck.

Detective Sergeant Peter Vine, of Levin, said the decision to proceed with a manslaughter charge was taken after an "extensive" inquiry that involved a large number of witness statements and legal advice.

"Throughout this process we have remained in frequent contact with Mr Kidd's family and we have met with them recently to communicate the next steps in our investigation."

The family said yesterday they were relieved that a manslaughter charge had been laid, and believed the forestry industry needed to be reformed to make it safer. The charges sent a very strong message to forestry employers, they said in a statement.

CTU president Helen Kelly also said the prosecution would send an important signal that criminal law applied in a workplace just as much as anywhere else.

"All forestry employers should know that they are on notice," she said. "Deaths in forestry are preventable. Employers who fail to ensure the health and safety of their workers should feel the full weight of the law."

Kidd was one of 10 forestry workers to die on the job last year - a death rate seven times higher than Australia's.

Blair Scotland, a partner at Dundas Street Employment Lawyers, said it was rare for police to go as far as laying a manslaughter charge for a forestry death, given how hard it normally was to pin the blame on one person.

"It's a reasonably high threshold. You don't get that happening very often."

It suggested police had evidence that the man charged had been grossly negligent or reckless in his duties, to the point where Kidd's death was on his hands, Scotland said.

But manslaughter was still difficult to prove in a workplace death, because it hinged on the defendant's state of mind at the time.

Scotland could not recall any forestry deaths that had previously led to a manslaughter charge.

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Kidd's father, Craig, said yesterday that the family strongly supported a recent review of safety procedures in the forestry industry.

- The Dominion Post

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