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New forestry standards show nothing learned from Pike River

Wednesday December 5, 2012

New forestry standards show nothing learned from Pike River

The launch of new forestry standards today by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MoBIE) show the department has learned nothing from the tragedy of Pike River and continues to provide weak leadership in the area of Health and Safety, the Council of Trade Unions said today.

“The standards were developed without any worker participation and by the very organisations in the forest industry that already show they have no understanding of the seriousness of the ongoing health and safety issues in the sector,” CTU president Helen Kelly said.

“The repeated claims by employers and owners that the industry is safe show they have no intention of improving.”

“Last week saw another worker killed and one seriously injured. That’s 13 in three years, as well at least 5 logging truck deaths since Christmas (not all drivers).

Helen Kelly said the CTU has considerable concerns with the standards including:
• No provisions for employee participation (despite this being a key recommendation in the Pike River Report).
• Weak provisions around vehicles (for example no requirement for seatbelts)
• Risk shifting to employees (for example stating that workers can refuse unsafe work but requiring them to work it out with their employer first rather than stating reciprocal obligations e.g. employers have an obligation to stop, listen and respond).

The CTU also has a major objection to the silence in the standards relating to employment rights and the obligations of employers to have fair employment agreements, Helen Kelly said.

“We believe working conditions in the industry are a major contributor to the accident levels including long hours and fatigue.

“On this matter the standards put the onus on the workers to manage fatigue, requiring employers only to provide ‘regular rest breaks, a meal break, a daily or nightly sleep period and shared driver responsibilities’. How this can be seen as best practice is unbelievable,” Helen Kelly said.

“The standards are very similar to the previous standards which were launched with great fanfare and have continued to fail workers in the industry.

“By promulgating these standards today, the Ministry is making itself complicit in the continued risk of workers in the forest industry,” Helen Kelly said.


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