30 Jan 2014

Forest industry launches safety review

8:40 am on 30 January 2014

The forest industry has launched a safety review with the appointment of an independent panel to conduct the investigation.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

The review comes after an apalling year for the industry, with 10 deaths and more than 150 serious injuries in forestry acidents, and another forestry worker has already died this year.

The Forest Owners, Contractors and Farm Forestry associations are funding the review, which is expected to take up to six months.

It is backed by ACC and Government agencies, as well as the Council of Trade Unions, which has been highly critical of the industry's safety record.

Forest Owners' Association president Paul Nicholls said the three-member panel had a free hand in its investigation and would be looking for the reasons behind the spike in the accident rate.

"If we look back in history, the injury rate has been decreasing. However, we've seen particularly last year it has spiked back up again but before that it had probably plateaued," Mr Nicholls said.

"So the review is aimed at trying to understand some of the causes and reasons why we think we haven't achieved as good a safety record as we would have liked."

The review would question some of the practices the industry had taken as the best way to do things in the past and look at whether it was the best way to do them in the future, he said.

say 'is that the best way to do them in the future'."

The independent panel members are business leader George Adams, employment, health and safety lawyer Hazel Armstrong and business safety specialist Mike Cosman.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges welcomed the inquiry.

He said he had already directed WorkSafe New Zealand to urgently review the forest industry's approved code of practice, because of the low level of compliance revealed by government inspections of logging operations.

Checks had showed about half the operations visited were non-compliant, and about 15 had been shut down, Mr Bridges said.