Focus on Forestry Deaths

  • Max Bradford

Workers are dying at an unacceptable rate in New Zealand forests, Labour Minister Max Bradford said today.

Mr Bradford, who is to travel to Ngamu forest in the Wairarapa today to observe accident rescue demonstrations, said the death toll among forest workers particularly affected Maori workers.

"Maori make up a high proportion of the workforce in forestry. In Rotorua for example, 90 per cent of the forestry workforce are Maori. In the last decade, 170 Maori workers died in forestry," Mr Bradford said.

According to figures released today by OSH, forestry is New Zealand's most lethal industry with the highest per capita deaths.

Loggers are more than 70 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average New Zealand worker.

"If you work in logging for 40 years, there is one chance in seven you will be killed - probably crushed by trees or heavy machinery. Working in forestry is like playing Russian roulette.

"That is why the Government is taking action - through OSH - with a new campaign to eliminate workplace deaths and reduce serious injuries on the job."

Worksafe Week 1997 (Oct 6-10) marks the official beginning of OSH's strategic direction Together to Zero: Eliminating Workplace Deaths.

Together to Zero is a partnership between industry and the Government with particular focus on the three killer industries; farming, forestry and construction.

Through education and awareness, the aim is to eliminate workplace death and reduce the social suffering and economic cost of workplace fatalities.

There is also a new special focus on Maori. A new partnership will see OSH working more closely with Maori, with the ultimate goal of a stand-alone agency for Maori by Maori to eliminate death and serious harm at work.

"Often it is simple steps which saves lives - a seat belt worn in a bulldozer, clothing and hair secured properly, one piece of safety equipment worn or installed," Mr Bradford said.

It is estimated that 17 out of 21 mobile plant fatalities in forestry could be avoided just through the use of a seatbelt or operator restraint.

"There are easy, cheap and simple ways to prevent workplace death and serious injury if only the hazards are known and managed, employers and employees aware, safe practices followed."