Two forestry companies fined after ‘tragic’ workplace accident

WorkSafe says a fatal forest accident on the East Coast could have been avoided if industry guidelines had been followed (file photo).

Esther Ashby Coventry/Staff

WorkSafe says a fatal forest accident on the East Coast could have been avoided if industry guidelines had been followed (file photo).

WorkSafe says the “tragic” death of forests on the East Coast could have been avoided if industry guidelines had simply been followed.

Two companies appeared in Gisborne County Court in March of this year for sentencing after the incident, with the ruling being issued this month.

In 2019, Ernslaw One Limited contracted with Pakiri Logging Limited to assist with harvesting in West Ho Forest in Tologa Bay.

In February 2019, Nate Miller, a worker at Pakiri Logging Limited, was traumatized by logs that were carried from the valley via the Horizon cable and died at the scene.

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The WorkSafe investigation found that workers did not adhere to “recommended safe retraction distances” and found that the worker was 18-20 meters from the horizon cable when it should have been at least 45 meters away.

WorkSafe found that both parties failed to ensure that dangerous work was carried out safely.

“Pakiri was not ensuring that the crew was following correct protocols during the disintegration and harvest work was in progress,” said Danielle Henry, a WorkSafe spokeswoman.

The audits conducted by Erneslav and Bakiri from May-September 2018 highlighted issues with the way certain Bakiri staff operates.

Henry said that despite the problems identified in those audits, which were available to the companies months before the accident, the companies failed to take appropriate action.

In the ruling, Pakiri Logging Limited was fined $468,000 and Ernslaw One Limited was fined $288,000. The companies were ordered to share the family’s compensation in the total amount of $238,000.

“Had the two companies discussed audit findings as they came in and taken action as a result of the issues identified, this tragic incident could have been avoided,” Henry said.

“This highlights the importance of clear communication and the need to follow industry practices — especially in a high-risk industry,” Henry said.

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