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Issues in forestry will continue until more held to account

Andrew LITTLE

Labour Issues Spokesperson

15 January 2014   MEDIA STATEMENT  

Safety issues in forestry will continue until more held to account

The penalty imposed on a logging contractor following the death of a Rotorua forestry worker will send a signal to other contractors but does not deal with systemic issues such as the lack of responsibility of forest owners, Labour's spokesperson on Labour Issues, Andrew Little, says.

Complete Logging was yesterday fined $60,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $75,000 for the death of Robert Epapara last March after safety inspectors found there was too little preparation at the logging site on the day of the fatality.

"While the fine is still way below the maximum ($250,000) under the Health and Safety in Employment Act it will no doubt be seen as significant within an industry dominated by small and medium size contractors.

"However the penalty won't address the on-going woeful performance in an industry which had 10 fatal accidents last year.

"Worksafe has said it has identified ‘systemic’ issues. A major one is that much of the core work of forestry has been contracted out. The result of that is that too many players lack the scale to meet all their safety obligations, making it difficult for the regulator to get a cohesive response from the industry.

"Worksafe needs to follow the money and start holding the forestry owners to account; as much attention should be given to the forest owner in any investigation as is given to those closer to the accident scene.

"How many forest owners have been investigated for the supervision they exercise over their contractors, and how many have been considered for prosecution?

"Until a forest owner is brought to book I don't expect we will see any meaningful improvement in forestry health and safety.”

ENDS

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