Puketi Logging has been found guilty of a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act relating to the death of 19-year-old Eramiha Pairama.
Pairama passed away after he was struck while felling a tree near Whakatane in January 2013.
The employers of forestry worker Eramiha Pairama, were found guilty specifically of failing to take all practical steps to provide Eramiha with a safe working environment and particularly to ensure that he was not exposed to the dangers of the work he was being expected to manage on his own.
Eramiha’s mother, Selina Eruera says she is pleased her son’s employer was found guilty, however there is little comfort for her, “Losing a a loved one, dealing with various people and agencies, and a court trial only highlights the need for change. Though we are pleased with the verdict, it will never bring my son Eramiha Eruera Pairama back. It is my hope that steps and changes to the workplace will now be taken seriously and enforced to ensure the safety of all workers.”
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) took the private prosecution on the company after the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) inspectors made the decision not to take a prosecution.
CTU President Helen Kelly said "Eramiha should not have died at work. He was inadequately trained, unsupervised, and had not been provided with adequate safety briefings. He simply should not have been left to work alone that afternoon. He was killed in 2013 along with 10 other workers in the forestry sector.”
The CTU says this action has yet again highlighted the inadequacy of the Government to step up in health and safety and fulfill its role as legislator and regulator.
Kelly says, “While we acknowledge that the new agency, Worksafe, has increased enforcement, we remain very concerned that the Health and Safety Reform Bill being raced through Parliament will reduce the rights of working Kiwis to raise concerns about safety issues at work.”
CTU wants the Government to step up and take the lead in health and safety to make a real difference and make a true impact on reducing the accidents in the forestry industry.
“This is the second private prosecution taken by the CTU in forestry with a guilty plea being entered for the death of forestry worker Charles Finlay entered on 3 August 2015.”
An Independent Forestry Safety Review released in October last year recommended a three year action plan to drive improvements in the forestry sector.
The Safety review recommended that WorkSafe New Zealand convene a Forestry Leadership Action Group comprised of government, industry workers and their representatives to oversee the delivery of a Forestry Sector Health and Safety Action Plan.
The report highlighted that forestry was the most dangerous industry in New Zealand to work in.
Since 2008, 32 lives have been lost in the forest block, and the injury rate is double that of any other industry in the country.