Death reminder to keep eye on field staff

WorkSafe New Zealand has found inadequate training and supervision contributed to the death of a forestry technician in northern Hawke’s Bay two years ago.

The man was repairing a mechanical attachment, known as a harvester head, when the device was activated by being manually spun. The 48-year-old was fatally crushed at Quail Ridge Forest in Putere, near Wairoa, in November 2020.

The victim’s employer, Waratah Forestry Services Limited, pleaded guilty to health and safety failures and was sentenced today.

WorkSafe identified that Waratah’s field technicians had been inadequately trained about the risks and controls involved in such a repair job, and weren’t properly monitored to correct any unsafe practices.

“Although the field technicians were provided with some safety instruction, the manuals for the harvester head were large and the ‘buddy’ training system the business had was insufficient. There was no other supervision and monitoring of the field technicians’ safety knowledge and practices,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Danielle Henry.

“Any business with field staff should stay on top of how those workers go about their job on an ongoing basis. It can be easy for safety to be compromised without workers necessarily realising it while they’re working remotely, and employers need to be attuned to that risk.

“The victim was a much-loved father, husband, and brother. This is a particularly difficult time of year for his family to go through a court sentencing, and it’s important we recognise their loss as this case comes to a close today,” says Danielle Henry.

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