Logging firm fined after death of worker
A logging firm, Blacklaws Logging Limited, has been fined $86,400 and ordered to pay $65,000 in reparation following the death of a worker whilst working in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough.
The company has ceased trading since the accident, and because there are limited funds left in its account, it will only have to pay $20,000 of the fine imposed. The company’s insurance company will pay the full reparations to the victim’s family.
The Blenheim District Court heard that on 17 February last year the owner of the company and two employees were contracted to fell trees on Glenlee Station using chainsaws and an excavator. Prior to starting work, a dead branch had been identified that rested across the upper canopy of three trees due to be felled.
When the workers started on one of the trees that the branch rested across, the excavator operator started to push it before the chainsaw operator was out of the danger area. The dead branch then became dislodged and a piece broke off, hitting and injuring the chainsaw operator who later died at the scene.
“Forestry has the highest rate of fatal work-related injuries in New Zealand and although the industry has put in a lot of work in this area the risks are still ever-present,” says MBIE Health and Safety Southern Division General Manager, Francois Barton.
“The Approved Code of Practice for Safety and Health in Forestry Operations gives clear guidance on what actions to take when dealing with a hung up branch as in this case - either by bringing it down immediately or cordoning the area off. In addition, effective radio communications between the excavator operator and the chainsaw operator would have ensured that the danger area was clear before any attempt was made to dislodge the branch.
“It is important to ensure that hazards are not only identified but are also well controlled. In this case, adequate controls were not implemented to enable the identified hazard to be managed properly. Ultimately, a lack of hazard control, a lack of communication and not dealing with this hung-up branch in the approved manner have had catastrophic consequences, resulting in the death of a man,” said Mr Barton.
The Judge accepted MBIE’s position that the offending was of high culpability and that isolation of the hazard was readily available and easy to achieve.
Notes to Editors
Blacklaws Logging Limited was charged under sections 6 and 50(1)(a) of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992
- The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 is available online.