Two workers have died within a week in the New Zealand forestry sector, sparking concerns that the push to improve occupational safety and health in the sector still have some way to go. Both men were in their 20s, and investigations have been called by state authorities. Five workers have now died in the sector this year.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the families, workmates and friends of those workers who have lost their lives”, said FIRST Union General Secretary Robert Reid. “As we have seen in the past, when log prices rise commercial pressure on workers results in accidents. The NZ Government needs to actively intervene in this sector to protect workers’ rights to join a union and collectively improve their safety practices.”
The first fatality occurred on Thursday 17 August in the Marlborough region, and has been named as 20-year old Luke Thomas Dixon. Dixon was operating a wheeled log hauler that came off a forestry track and rolled several hundred metres; he was confirmed dead at the site. Both NZ Police and Worksafe (the national health and safety regulator) have begun investigating the incident.
The second fatality occurred on Monday 21 August in Gisborne region, 23-year old Te Oho Mauri Piripi Bartlett. Tragically, Bartlett leaves behind a young child and fiancé. Local police are currently unable to comment on the circumstances surrounding the death, however it has been confirmed that Bartlett is related to Niko Brooking-Hodgson, who died in a workplace accident in the Pohakura Forest a year ago.
In 2013 there were 10 fatalities in the NZ forestry industry. Following this FIRST Union pressured the Industry into funding an Independent Forestry Safety Review, which workers around the country participated in, and resulted in the establishment of the Forestry Industry Safety Council. FIRST Union has established a forestry workers network named Forestry Workers First, and are actively recruiting workers in the forestry industry, and have built strong membership in the silviculture industry.