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Growth in forestry deaths appalling

If business executives were being killed at work at the rate of almost one a month, the Government would have moved a long time ago.

A forestry worker died in Wairau Valley on January 16, 2014 and another worker was seriously injured near Whakatane.

This death was the 11th in 13 months.

It cannot go on. Only two days earlier, a contractor was penalised $135,000 for unsafe practices leading to a fatality.

Now, yet another family is mourning.

If anyone is in any doubt as to the tragic consequences of those practices, they should be acquainted with the ‘Stop the Killing in Forestry’ campaign.

WorkSafe New Zealand must urgently investigate whether the forest owner in the latest case has fulfilled their responsibilities under the Health and Safety Employment Act.

The owner must be asked about their management system for health and safety, how many managers it had on site to ensure that the work was carried out safely and what incentives, if any, it provided to speed up work at the risk of safety.

It is the forest owners who select the contractor. They are in the best position to ensure that their contractors are properly equipped to do the job and have adequate management and supervision to protect frontline workers.

It is impossible to believe that after 28 deaths in five years, the industry does not know what the problems and risks are and how to prevent them. Any death in this industry must be regarded as preventable and therefore the responsibility of the industry.

WorkSafe can only work within the existing law. It is time the Government took seriously the calls for a corporate manslaughter law.

Andrew Little is Member of Parliament on Labour List and the Party’s Spokesperson on Labour Issues.

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