The coroner looking into the death of eight forestry workers, including one Bay of Plenty man, has safety concerns at the high rate of deaths still happening within the industry.
A report by Coroner Wallace Bain says the circumstances of the deaths “raised important public issues and concern” to the high rate of deaths in the industry.
Coroner’s report into the death of Robert Arapeta Ruri-Epapara says he still has concerns with safety in the industry. File.
Wallace says it’s concerning there have already been four forestry industry deaths this year, despite safety improvements.
"It’s of concern that there is this rash of deaths this year, especially after all the publicity and education in the sector.
“Clearly there is still a lot to do if New Zealand is to reduce its workplace forestry deaths permanently."
Rotorua’s Robert Arapeta Ruri-Epapara was one of eight forestry workers whose inquests were grouped together deliberately because they were killed while working in the industry.
His inquest was joined with George Mahanga, David Wayne McMurtrie, Reece Joseph Reid, Eramiha Eruera Pairama, Robert Ian Thompson, Charles Harrison Finlay and David Charles Beamsley.
Robert was one of 10 forestry workers who died in 2013.
The 23-year-old died at Waione Forest, near Lake Rotoiti on March 2013.
His death was caused by massive head and spinal injuries after being struck by a felled tree.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment brought a prosecution against the employee in charge of the crew, for failing to take all practical steps to ensure his workers’ safety.
Since 2013, there has been a significant improvement in safety in the industry, largely driven by the Council of Trade Unions, the coroner says.
He says the industry was now a safer place to work.
“However, the 2016 deaths show there needs to be constant vigilance in the sector.”
His recommendations are there need to be more specificity in the workplace environment and the court endorses the inclusion of the Independent Forestry Safety Review and the import of the new Work Place Safety Legislation.