Panel investigates forestry injuries, fatalities

Forestry bosses say a lack of trainers, harsh working conditions and safety gaps are contributing to workers being injured in the industry.

The Independent Forestry Safety Review panel met workers, contractors, forestry managers and owners in Balclutha yesterday following the release of its public consultation document.

The panel is investigating the factors behind the number of injuries and fatalities in the forestry sector. Since 2008, 28 workers have been injured and two killed on forest blocks in Southland.

Panel chairman George Adams said: "All parts of the industry have to work together to ensure the forest is a safe place to work. It is about workers being able to go home at the end of a working day, every day."

Last year was particularly dreadful with 10 people killed nationwide, he said.

Safety gaps, harsh working conditions and training requirements were all highlighted in the review's consultation document.

About 40 owners, managers and contractors attended yesterday's meeting in Balclutha.

A shortage of the trainers and assessors needed to train forestry crews was raised more than once.

One participant said there was a need to have people assessing crews and closing them down if they did not meet standards, "if we want to stop people getting hurt".

Another said the value of a trained forestry worker was often overlooked.

Inserting standard health and safety requirements into contracts between forest owners or managers and logging contractors might also "weed out some of the cowboys", another suggested.

The panel will also hold meetings in Whangarei, Gisborne, Nelson, Christchurch and Rotorua.

The Southland Times