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Forestry Fatality Was Preventable – So Why Did It Happen?

Two companies have been ordered to pay a total sum of over $1 million after failing to follow industry guidance, resulting in the death of a worker.

WorkSafe is once again reminding businesses to make sure work is being done correctly, safely and to higher industry standards, or risk seeing their workers injured or killed.

A forestry fatality on the East Coast is just another example of this, a tragedy that could have been avoided if industry guidance had simply been followed.

In February 2019, Ernslaw One Limited had engaged Pakiri Logging Limited to assist with harvesting at West Ho forest in Tologa Bay. A breaker out worker for Pakiri Logging Limited was struck by a log being hauled out of the valley on a skyline cable. The victim died at the scene as a result of his injuries.

A WorkSafe investigation found both parties had failed to ensure the dangerous work was being carried out safely.

“Pakiri were not ensuring crew were following correct protocols while breaking out and harvesting work was taking place,” says WorkSafe’s Area Manager Danielle Henry.

“Our investigation found that the parties’ workers were not abiding to recommended safe retreat distances. At the time of the incident, the victim was 18-20 metres away from the skyline cable when he should have been at least 45 metres away.

“Audits commissioned by Ernslaw and Pakiri from May to September 2018 highlighted issues with the way in which a particular break out crew for Pakiri was operating. Despite issues identified in these audits being available to the companies months prior to the incident, the companies failed to take corrective action.

“Had the two companies discussed the audit results as and when they were provided and taken action as a result of the issues identified then this tragic incident could have been avoided.

“This highlights the importance of clear communication and the need to follow industry practice – especially in a high risk industry.”

Pakiri Logging Limited was fined $468,000 and Ernslaw One Limited was fined $288,000 at the Gisborne District Court while the companies have been ordered to share in reparations to the families for a total of $256,408.

Click here for WorkSafe’s guidance on forestry

Pakiri Logging Limited

  • Pakiri Logging Limited was sentenced on Wednesday 24 March at the Gisborne District Court.
  • A fine of $468,000 was imposed.
  • Pakiri Logging Limited was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Being a PCBU, having a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, did fail to comply with that duty and that failure exposed its break out workers, to a risk of death or serious injury, arising from breaking out activities.
  • S 48(2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.

Ernslaw One Limited

  • Ernslaw One Limited was sentenced on Wednesday 24 March at the Gisborne District Court.
  • A fine of $288,000 was imposed.
  • Ernslaw One Limited was sentenced under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Being a PCBU, having a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, did fail to comply with that duty and that failure exposed Pakiri Logging Limited break out workers, to a risk of death or serious injury, arising from breaking out activities.
  • S 48(2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.

Total reparations of $256,408 were ordered to be paid to the victim’s family.

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