HarvestPro New Zealand fined NZ$80,000, ordered to pay reparations of NZ$40,000, after worker hit by log weighing more than a tonne; judge finds forestry company could have taken practical steps to limit hazard

WELLINGTON, New Zealand , June 13, 2014 (press release) – Forestry company HarvestPro has been fined $80,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $40,000 after one of its workers was hit by a log weighing more than a tonne.

Tau Henare was working on a logging operation at Whakaangiangi on the East Coast when the incident occurred in September 2012. His job was to attach strops to fallen logs, which were then dragged up a hillside to be prepared for transport away from the forest.

Mr Henare was hit by a log that had come lose from the jaws of a loader on a landing above and slid down a steep hillside. He suffered fractures to his arm and leg that have required multiple surgeries and left him unable to work.

HarvestPro New Zealand Limited was found guilty at the Gisborne District Court under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to protect the safety of Mr Henare.

Judge Adeane found that the accident was caused by the decision to allow Mr Henare to enter the danger zone at the same time that another worker was using the loader to stack logs on the landing above him. The Judge found that there were practical steps available to limit the hazard, including improved communication and effective supervision.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s General Manager of Health and Safety Operations Ona de Rooy says the work Mr Henare was doing was inherently dangerous, and HarvestPro had a duty to do more to protect his safety.

“Much of the forestry work in New Zealand is done on steep hillsides. It is not just the felling of trees that is dangerous – workers are at risk whenever logs are being handled and moved.

“WorkSafe NZ is working hard with the forestry industry to improve safety standards across the board. Our inspectors have carried out more than 220 inspections of log removal operations since August and issued almost 300 enforcement notices, including 25 prohibition notices.

“That work, as well as this prosecution and fine, sends a clear message to the industry about their duty to protect workers at every stage of the tree harvesting process,” says Ona de Rooy.

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