Forest death must prompt changes

Wednesday, 27 March 2013, 1:14pm

Press Release: First Union


The wood sector union says that another fatality in forestry must serve as a wakeup call for better health and safety standards in the industry.

“It is a very sad time for the family of the 23 year old forestry worker who died yesterday near Rotorua, and we extend our sympathy to them,” said Robert Reid, General Secretary of FIRST Union.

“We support the Council of Trade Unions’ call for an inquiry into forest safety. Every workplace death in New Zealand is preventable. We cannot accept that current health and safety standards in the forest industries are working, because they clearly are not.”

21 forestry workers died between 2008 and 2012, and there have been 3 further deaths this year. And 879 forestry workers have been seriously injured since 2008, as at the end of 2012. Our forestry death toll is 34 times higher than the UK.

“All parties need to be working cooperatively on health and safety in the forest industries. Our union is ready to do so, and the public should have an expectation that forest owners and contractors are also.”

Robert Reid said that a two-month round of safety briefings for forestry workers got underway in Kaitaia in February, and despite early support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for union participation, this was pulled at the last minute.

Robert Reid said that barriers being put in the way of forestry workers accessing union advice and support will not only have a counterproductive effect on workplace safety, but also put forestry’s critical certification at risk.

“Forest Stewardship Council certification obliges forest owners, their managers and contractors to facilitate the activity of unions in the industry, recognising the union’s role in representing and supporting the forestry workforce,” he said.

“We are calling on forest owners and contractors to work constructively with us to bring down the horrific accident and death rates in the industry.”

Last month the Council of Trade Unions launched a campaign calling for the government and forestry industry to launch an inquiry into the huge numbers of accidents occurring in forestry. Details of the campaign are here, including the personal stories of family members affected by forest fatalities.

Fatality statistics are here and serious injury statistics are here

The National Distribution Union and Finsec joined forces in October 2011 to form New Zealand’s newest union – FIRST. The union represents 27,000 people working in Finance, Industrial (Textile and Wood) Retail, Stores & Transport.


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