WorkSafe New Zealand forestry inspectors discover 'alarming levels' of safety breaches in visits focusing on log hauling, begin new round of visits to forestry contractors to ensure tree felling guidelines are being followed

WELLINGTON, New Zealand , March 6, 2014 (press release) – WorkSafe New Zealand inspectors will begin a new round of visits to forestry contractors this week focusing on the second of the two most dangerous jobs in the industry – tree felling.

“Too many workers in our forests are being killed and injured as they cut the trees, and we have worked closely with the industry and worker representatives to develop Best Practice Guidelines for Safe Manual Tree Felling,” said Ona de Rooy, General Manager Health and Safety Operations.

“From the regulator’s perspective, these are really the ‘No Excuses’ guidelines. The industry knows what it must do and it knows what our expectations are – there are no excuses any more.

“Do it right, or don’t do it all, that’s our message,” Ms de Rooy said. “There’s such a fine margin between safe and unsafe when you’re dealing with a 30 metre tree and not doing it right means a person’s life is in serious danger.

“We expect forest owners to be driving these guidelines throughout their contractor crews; we expect the contractors to be driving them hard with every crew member; we expect the men with the chainsaws to be absolutely clear on what they must do, and to blow the whistle on anyone trying to make them do anything outside the terms of the guidelines.

“If we have full compliance throughout the supply chain, we’ll reduce the death and injury toll in this industry, but it does require everyone to play their part,” Ms de Rooy said.

WorkSafe NZ has completed its assessment round focusing on the other dangerous activity – hauling the cut logs to transport sits in the forest – and has discovered alarming levels of safety breaches.

“We have visited over 200 cable hauling operations and issued over 270 enforcement notices, including 23 prohibition notices which shut the operation down in the face of imminent danger to workers. We’re finalising the figures from the remaining visits now and will be able to release that information shortly.

“I am very hopeful that we will not strike that level of non-compliance in the tree felling programme, but principals, contractors, crew bosses and workers can expect that if we find non-compliance, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action,” Ms de Rooy said.

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