Workplace death leads to fine

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Taranaki forestry company R&S Dreaver Shelter Trimmers Limited has been fined and ordered to pay reparation over the death of a worker who had only been on the job for six days.

The company was convicted in the New Plymouth District Court of one charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure a worker’s safety.

They were fined $52,500 - reduced to $25,000 based on the company’s ability to pay – and pay $55,000 reparation over the death of the Adam Olsson who had only been on the job for six days.

Olsson died in April 2013, when a dead tree he was helping to bring down broke apart. After making chainsaw cuts into the tree Olsson initially went to a safety zone outside the area where the tree could fall so that his colleague could use an excavator to complete the felling of the tree. However, he subsequently moved back towards the tree, and was struck by falling debris which caused fatal head injuries.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s General Manager Health and Safety Operations Ona de Rooy stated that Olsson had no formal forestry industry qualification and had never previously worked on a tree-felling operation and his employer had a legal duty to ensure he was properly supervised.

“Mr Olsson was felling trees with a colleague who was operating a long track excavator with a grapple hook which meant under the best practice guidelines for tree-felling he was effectively in control of the operation – despite only having a matter of days experience on the job. He should never have been put in that position,” de Rooy said.

The hazard identification process at the site was also inadequate, according to de Rooy. While some hazards were identified there was no record of how they were to be managed.

“This death was entirely preventable. If the company had followed industry guidelines and provided a new and inexperienced worker with proper supervision Mr Olsson might still be with us today,” de Rooy said.

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