24 June 2014
Union forestry campaign showing dramatic drop in incidents
A snapshot of Worksafe New Zealand’s Tree Felling Project contains both good and bad news, said FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid.
On the one hand it shows a dramatic drop in the number of serious harm incident notifications between 1 January and 31 May, 46 in 2014 compared with 82 in the corresponding 2013 period. The fatality rate has dropped even more dramatically, from 6 in the 2013 period to just 1 in the 2014 period.
On the other hand the report shows that 235 enforcement notices still had to be given out by Worksafe to tree felling operations in the first quarter of this project. This includes 36 prohibition notice and 8 written warnings.
The much-improved serious harm statistics are the result of a concerted union and family campaign to put the issue forestry health and safety on the public agenda, along with a spate of prosecutions and compliance activities from regulators, said Reid.
“This decline in incidents and fatalities in just a year shows that this industry can do things more safely.
“Labour Minister Simon Bridges has noted that the industry and its workers have responded to the challenge of making their work safer.
“However it is a shame that the Minister has failed to see the role that FIRST Union and the Council of Trade Unions have played in highlighting this issue and ensuring workers voices are heard before it is too late. For too long health and safety initiatives have been done to forestry workers rather than by them.
“FIRST Union is still locked out of most of the forests and unable to give independent health and safety advice to most forestry workers.
“The Independent Forestry Safety Review, which is currently discussing its findings at public meetings around the country, is another part of the solution. They have uncovered significant remaining issues around working conditions, worker representation, training and fatigue which still need to be addressed.”