Firm fined after death of logger

Last updated 07:33 19/12/2012

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A Marlborough logging firm has been ordered to pay more than $150,000 over the death of one of its workers last year.

Peter Cowan, 61, died after being hit by a falling branch while working with two other Blacklaws Logging staff felling trees in the Awatere Valley in February last year.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment health and safety southern division general manager Francois Barton said the company was fined $86,400 and ordered to pay $65,000 in reparation to Mr Cowan's family for the death after a hearing in the Blenheim District Court on Thursday.

A ministry spokesman said it did not have a copy of the court judgment that could be provided to the Express.

Blacklaws Logging owner Dean Blacklaws was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Mr Barton said that during the hearing the court was told Mr Cowan and two others were felling trees on Glenlee Station on February 17.

A dead branch had been spotted resting high up across three trees, including one which Mr Cowan had been working on as a chainsaw operator, he said.

However, an excavator driver started pushing the tree over before Mr Cowan had got safely clear and the dead branch fell and crushed him, Mr Barton said.

The ministry's health and safety code for forestry had clear guidelines about how to deal with a hung-up branch, either by bringing it down or cordoning the area around it, and effective radio communication could also have prevented the danger, he said.

"In this case, adequate controls were not implemented to enable the identified hazard to be managed properly.

"Ultimately, a lack of hazard control, a lack of communication and not dealing with this hung-up branch in the approved manner have had catastrophic consequences, resulting in the death of a man."

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- The Marlborough Express

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