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Forestry industry safety again highlighted

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/04/2016

The deaths of four workers in the past three months is a sad reminder that the forestry industry still has much work to do to improve its safety performance, the Forestry Industry Safety Council says.

On Friday police named a worker killed after a tree fell on him in a Pohokura forest block near Tutira, north of Napier, on Thursday. He was 53-year-old Napier man Blair David Palmer.

FISC National Safety Director Fiona Ewing said the new Health and Safety at Work Act, which comes into force on Monday, will help sharpen the focus on ways of working safely.

The new law reinforces the importance of leadership of safety from the top, workers being involved in health and safety, businesses sharing responsibility for the safety of all workers including contractors and a strong focus on managing real risks in the workplace.

The death of 10 forestry workers in 2013 also prompted an independent review of the forestry industry that among other things recommended the creation of FISC to co-ordinate industry and government harm prevention efforts, Ms Ewing says.

There were three forestry death in 2015 and one in 2014.

Workers needed to be trained and competent to do the job, there needed to be good planning and communication on-site, and workers had to adhere to the industry's safe retreat distances, she said.

WorkSafe New Zealand, which is investigating the death this week, said although the rash of deaths was concerning, the industry was headed in the right direction overall.

"We have not let up our pressure on the sector to drive improvements in its health and safety record," WorkSafe chief executive Gordon MacDonald said.

Last year WorkSafe made almost 2200 visits to forestry work sites and this year to date it had made 280 visits.

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