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Significant lessons for forestry industry in worker’s death

Media Release

14 January 2014

Significant lessons for forestry industry in worker’s death

Complete Logging Limited has been fined $60,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $75,000 for health and safety failings that led to the death of a forestry worker on 26 March 2013.

Robert Epapara was hit and killed by a tree felled by another crew member in the Waione Forest near Lake Rotoiti. The company had pleaded guilty to one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing take all practicable steps to ensure Mr Epapara was not exposed to the risk of injury during tree felling operations. Sentencing was at the Rotorua District Court today.

“There are very important lessons for the forestry industry in Mr Epapara’s tragic death,” Ona de Rooy, General Manager Health and Safety Operations for WorkSafe New Zealand said.

“There was no plan for that day laid out by the company; there was no “tailgate meeting” to discuss that day’s work and there was no radio provided for Mr Epapara, a tree feller, to communicate with others.

“These are forestry basics that are fundamental to forestry safety and Complete Logging’s failures led to Mr Epapara’s death.

“Forestry companies must apply the Approved Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting. If Complete Logging Ltd had applied it, the chances are Mr Epapara would be here today.

“Instead, a family and a community grieves over a preventable death.

“This industry had an appalling 2013 – 10 men died in our forests.

“WorkSafe NZ’s current programme assessing the safety performance of cable hauling operations is uncovering some alarming systemic issues in this industry that contractors and their principals (the forestry companies employing them) must address.

“Nearly half of the 162 assessments we’ve done have resulted in enforcement action (203 in total), and we had to shut down 15 operations because of serious, imminent danger to workers.

“That is unacceptable. They are not getting safety right and we will continue to focus on changing their behaviour this year.

“We will also be meeting all forestry companies over the coming weeks to determine how they’re managing safety issues with their contractors. We will be forcefully reminding them that they have duties to ensure contractors are putting the safety of their men first,” Ms de Rooy said.

ENDS

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