Forestry Sectors “One Trick Pony” insufficient to end workplace toll

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With a death toll 6 to 7 times higher than the UK and wages ranking 4th lowest of 12 comparator countries Forestry contractors and owners would be better not off not defending their workplaces as safe but instead telling the New Zealand public how they intend to stop the carnage,  CTU President Helen Kelly said today. 

In an oversensitive reaction to her criticism that despite massive drug testing programmes forestry had failed to stop the tragic run of death and injury in the sector, Forest Industry Contractors Association have come back claiming that the forestry industry is far more safety-conscious than most any sector in the country despite having the highest accident incident rate in New Zealand and a dreadful rate when compared to international safety statistics.

“While drug testing is important to ensure those working are not impaired and the decrease in drug use in the industry is recognised, the industry promote it as a one trick pony and need to take into account all the other things that must be addressed to ensure the number of deaths reduce.  These include ensuring hours worked are reasonable, all staff are trained and represented by trained health and safety representatives, proper breaks are provided, safety standards are kept up to date, wages are sufficient to retain senior experienced staff, dangerous work areas are especially carefully managed, and contractors are carefully regulated to ensure they meet standards”,  Helen Kelly said.

“The industry is continually providing excuses and it is time everyone demanded better.  It is up to them to sort this out.  There have been three deaths for example in the Wharerata Forest in the last 18 months with strong Coroner recommendations being made at least in regards to one of them. Most of the labour is contracted with Forestry Owners taking the benefits of that labour but avoiding the reciprocal obligations that would be created through an employment relationship.  The response when challenged about a death is often to blame the nature of the industry but the fact other countries are doing so much better means this excuse is weak.  Employers that recognised they have a problem would not assert high safety standards when the record so blatantly speaks for itself.  This denial is part of the problem.” 

There have been 30 deaths in NZ forests in the last 6 years with at least 4 this year alone. Everyone has been quiet and complicit on health and safety issues in this country and the CTU will not be silenced by industry representatives who do not want to change. 


Background information

The death rate in the UK forestry industry is 10.4 per 100,000 workers and in NZ is 343 per 100,000.

Approximately 7000 workers work in the industry in NZ. About 14,000 workers work in the industry in the UK.

2006 labour cost comparisons found NZ has some of the lowest hourly compensation rates for the Forestry Industry paying at least a third  less than comparator countries such as Norway, Finland, Sweden, UK, Australia, Canada, USA, Japan  with only Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea paying less within the study.