Outcry at forestry death toll

MICHAEL LANGFORD: Died after becoming pinned between two trees.
MICHAEL LANGFORD: Died after becoming pinned between two trees.

Further calls are being made for reforms to the forestry industry following the death of a 28-year-old man who was pinned between two trees in a logging accident at Foxhill near Nelson yesterday.

Police released the man's name this morning. He was Michael Steven Langford, of Korere, south of Nelson.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly said this was the third forest industry-related death in three days.

A logging truck ran over a man in the Port of Lyttelton, a day after a father of four, Dave Beamsley, died cutting down a tree in the Bay of Plenty, she said.

This is the ninth forest worker to have been killed this year and more than 90 have been seriously injured, Ms Kelly said. "It has got to stop. The industry has to be regulated and the minister is being absolutely negligent by thinking the industry can sort this out on its own."

Mr Langford, the owner of Langford Contracting, had been working alone on a hauler before he was pinned between two logs, initial police reports have revealed.

A police spokesperson said the accident happened at a private forestry site off Foxhill Cemetery Rd at about midday. Victim Support assisted the other workers who were present.

Nelson St John Ambulance shift manager Kris Gagliardi said members of the public performed CPR but he died at the scene.

Nelson Tasman fire service support officer Peter Holland said Wakefield volunteer crew, together with the Brightwater Rural Fire Service responded to the scene and assisted with CPR and medical treatment until a rescue helicopter arrived.

They left the scene at 3.30pm, he said.

Acting chief fire officer Fritz Buckendahl, of Wakefield, described the accident as "horribly sad, especially so close to Christmas".

"That poor family, you have got to feel for them," he said.

It was not good for the forestry industry, either, he said.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment sent inspectors to the scene and was to launch an investigation.

Health and safety operations general manager Ona de Rooy said this had been a tragic week for forestry with two men killed at work.

"That's two families, two sets of workmates, two communities mourning a worker. This is just unacceptable.

"We have been checking cable hauling operations for the past 14 weeks and we've had to issue 182 enforcement notices for failures on the ground to meet acceptable health and safety practice.

Given the magnitude of that non-compliance, the ministry was now increasing their focus on forest owners and managers who had duties under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to ensure their contractors were operating safely, she said.

"They can expect to have to answer some tough questions from the health and safety regulator.

"Owners and managers must influence behaviour and we will be seeking evidence of their commitment to the safety of the workers they ultimately employ and enforcing where they are not," Ms de Rooy said.

The death comes just weeks after the chief coroner ordered inquiries to find out why the industry had the highest rate of workplace injury and death, with an average of five fatalities a year between 2007 and 2013.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges said his thoughts were with the family.

It had been a tragic week for forestry, he said.

The Government had stepped up its commitment to forestry to make the industry safer by delivering a new code of practice, he said.

"But the Government can't improve safety on its own. Everyone in the industry needs to step up and take responsibility."

The Government did not support a government-led inquiry into the forestry sector or more regulations, he said.

"We believe the collaborative work under way will help make a sustainable change."

If the industry wanted to lead an inquiry or review into forestry safety they were welcome to, and the ministry had been encouraged to provide support, he said.

But Labour MP Shane Jones described Simon Bridges as a "ministerial drone, on remote control with no accountability for forestry deaths under his defective safety regime".

"He insists he knows the problem and has solutions. He is the problem."

Cosseted in his Beehive office and limo perks means the minister would not take responsibility, Mr Jones said.

"Because of personal pride he refuses to resign despite Kiwis recoiling in horror as more fatherless families approach Christmas."

The forestry gangs were underpaid and exploited to suit the foreign log buyers and foreign forestry companies.

Mr Bridges needed to ensure that production did not prevail over life, he said. As the wood harvest grows there would be more pressure.

The Nelson Mail