Company sentenced after unsupervised worker hit by felled tree

A forestry incident which left a young trainee worker unconscious has drawn a sharp rebuke from the health and safety regulator.

Tree and Forest Limited appeared at the Nelson District Court yesterday and was fined $25,000 following a November 2017 incident in Motueka Valley in which the worker was struck by a felled tree and knocked unconscious.

The workers had been told to apply the two tree length rule, but had no measuring equipment to ensure the safe operating distance was used. The injured worker was struck by a tree felled by another worker. It is clear the workers were working too closely together said Grant Duffy WorkSafe’s Engagement Lead for Forestry.

“Doing half the job is just not enough in forestry and the failure to accurately identify the exclusion zone meant the victim was able to walk into danger.” 

WorkSafe’s subsequent investigation found the crew of trainee workers was not adequately supervised.

“There were multiple issues involved in this near-tragedy.  The workers did not have adequate supervision; additional training, supervision or disciplinary action was not provided for workers known to be working in an unsafe manner; and there were no systems or equipment in place to ensure safe working distances.

“This incident occurred as a combination of all the company’s failings and they are extremely lucky this young, inexperienced and unsupervised worker was not killed.”

Mr Duffy said risks inherent in felling trees and the hazard of falling trees are well known. 

“That’s why there are safety rules, and not implementing safety rules appropriately is simply unacceptable.

“In the last year there have been four fatalities in the forestry and logging industry. Last year there were 138 injuries resulting in workers needing a week away from work.

“In a high risk industry such as forestry supervision of trainee workers is integral. This is a wakeup call to all crews to ensure they are not putting their workers at risk of injury.”

Although the court had ordered a starting point of $450,000 for the fine an, end fine of $25,000 payable over five years was ordered due to the financial circumstances of the company.

Notes:

  • A fine of $25,000 payable over five years was imposed.
  • Reparation of $2000 was ordered.
  • Tree and Forest Limited was sentenced under s 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while at work in the business or undertaking, working in Motueka Forest, did fail to comply with that duty and that failure exposed workers to a risk of death or serious injury arising from tree felling.
  • S 48(2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.

 

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