The NZ Forestry Sector is completely unmonitored – It is one of our most dangerous industries and no one seems to know what is going on. From my perspective it appears within officialdom and the Forest Owners themselves, no one really cares.
There are myths abound about what makes our forest industry so dangerous (including compared to other countries). The first thing the Forest Owners Association (FOA) will tell you is “Not us. We represent the big players in Forestry and they are not the dangerous ones – it is those small woodblock cutters that have the accidents”.
Who would know – I can’t get this information out of MBIE – they don’t know. I have put in an OIA for all the investigation reports into forestry deaths for the last five years – apparently they are not in one place. I asked for them in January but the MBIE yesterday said:
“Both these processes (I also asked for the serious harm reports) have required a search through a large quantity of information and therefore the Ministry is extending the time limit on the request”
So it appears the recently developed new standards for Forestry were not based on their own information about what was causing the accidents. That they are having trouble finding them is deeply disturbing!
I do have the reports of the three fatal accidents from the Wharerata forest that have occurred in the last two years. Two of the deaths occurred in the forests owned by Hikurangi Forest Farms – and the third by Juken NZ. Both large Forest Owning companies.
The contractors association will tell you the same thing – “ Not us. It’s the contractors outside our organisation having the accidents”. When pushed – they don’t keep the figures on this – it appears to be a hunch! I haven’t got the names of the companies that are members of the Contractors Association but maybe they could tell me if Blackstump Logging, Harvestpro or Mana logging are members. Harvestpro at least is one of the biggest contracting companies in the country.
In addition to all the deaths and accidents on the Forest floor there are of course many others involving logging trucks both on logging roads and public roads. These appear to not only be excluded altogether from a consideration of the industry safety record but also not investigated as workplace accidents. I put in an OIA to the Transport Agency and Police for the number of logging truck accidents since 2008 and the number of deaths from them. I asked for copies of accident investigation reports, Information of prosecutions and copies of any policy development. MBIE don’t appear to even look at this area of workplace safety.
It turns out neither the Agency or the police data systems collect information identifying specifically logging trucks accidents.
There is an industry run Log Transport Safety Council to which the Transport Agency also belongs, but from the website, it doesn’t publicise accident reports (doesn’t mention them!), has very little safety advice and as far as I can see doesn’t even promote their own safety standards on the site.
Back to the google method I guess (this is a five minute google – feel free to add)!
“Woman dead after logging truck crash” – NZ Herald Nov 12, 2012
“Mother, son die in crash with log truck” – NZ Herald Nov 26, 2011
“One dead after logging truck crash” – One News January 13, 2012
“Man killed in logging truck crash” – One News November 30, 2012
“Fears grow after latest truck crash” – Northern Advocate 21st Feb 2013
“Man killed after logging truck crash” – NZ Herald Dec 1, 2011
“Ruatahuna man dies in logging truck crash.” – BOP live 25 July 2012
The last link above reports the death of Victor Ripia. He was killed on a forestry road. I have the police investigation. It is very technical. The accident occurred at 8.19 am but was not discovered until a passing driver noticed it at 10.55am. It is inconclusive as to cause and his death has been referred to the coroner.
I understand MBIE has not even looked at the health and safety obligations that may or may not have been complied with in relation to his death. I asked them for their report – they referred me to the police, who suggested it was an MBIE inspector that was doing that bit, but when I asked again at MBIE they said they had sent their report to the Coroner and I would have to ask them for it (in the confusion lies the problem). Now on Friday they have changed the nature of my request to assert I am after the police report (suggesting they didn’t do one, despite the police thinking they did and MBIE fudging the issue). It is all very unclear. Poor Victor. There will be no proper investigation into his workplace death.
The police report has one paragraph on the workplace health and safety issues – it notes Victor had health and safety training and then citing only one part of the legal obligations under the HSE Act it concludes “I believe that Trojan Logging Contractors have taken the appropriate action as a responsible employer under the legislation”.
It appears the provisions in the act that require the Principal (in this case there could be a few – the forest owner, the firm contracting Trojan, the Mill and the felling contractor) have not even been considered in terms of their obligations.
No one in that forest had a system to check drivers arrived safely on their journey – two trucks left loaded after Victor and arrived before him on a one way road – no one went to look for him –he lay for hours. The RT in his cab did not work. According to the Police “the vehicle combination was subject to a set of standards prepared for the Log Transport Safety Council that represents best practice for the transport of logs in NZ. These standards are recognised by the LTSC, Forest Owners Association, Land Transport NZ, OSH and ACC.”
The new MBIE forest safety standards defer to these LTSC standards for trucks – set by the industry for the industry – not even approved, they are not on the link provided by MBIE to access them.
The industry is currently holding a series of Safety Breakfasts around the country to explain the new inferior MBIE Forestry Standards to workers. These standards were developed with the Industry and MBIE and have whole sections not included that other better preforming jusidictions have (e.g. fatigue management). No unions or workers were at the table.
The breakfasts, in our third biggest export sector, are being funded by MBIE. We asked to attend. We think these workers need to know about their work rights. The standards don’t include mention of their legal right to trained health and safety reps and participation in health and safety – we wanted to tell them about that – tell them to seek independent support when they felt at risk etc. Explain that we think their terms and conditions of employment are a factor in the accident rate.
Our request to attend was rejected unanimously by the Forest Owners Association Executive (chaired by Sheldon Drummond of Juken NZ). Instead we proposed a leaflet from the FIRST union with this information. We asked the MBIE to ask its inspectors to distribute it (they were going to the breakfasts). They said this represented a conflict of interest! The FOA refused the leaflet. MBIE said it would instead make its generic work rights info available to these workers. In February I asked for a copy of the material given to these workers.
On Friday they informed me “Given that the programme for the 2013 Safe Start Breakfasts was already established and there was a desire to retain a strong focus on the safety gains associated with the introduction of the new Approved Code of Practice it was agreed that an alternative opportunity for the supported distribution of the worker’s rights material would be identified”
It wasn’t given out! We were not part of the “agreement” to not hand it out. I will now OIA the correspondence where this was discussed. The industry has the MBIE by the short and curlys!
This work makes you feel like you are screaming in the wind.
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