Kiwis killed at work remembered


A coroners hearing will be held over the death of forestry worker Eramiha Pairama in the Bay of Plenty today; the same day that 99 New Zealanders killed at work are honoured at memorials around the country.

Mr Pairama was just 19-years-old when he was killed after being hit by a tree at a Whakatane logging site in 2013, for reasons alleged to be related to substandard health and safety measures.

His mother will be present at the hearing today -- but it's not just his family that suffers, with between 45 and 77 workplace deaths reported in New Zealand every year.

Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Richard Wagstaff says the Workers Memorial Day commemoration, held annually on April 28, is a "sombre" occasion for all families affected by fatal work incidents.

"We remember those whose lives would have been saved if their workplaces had been safer. All of these deaths could have been prevented," he said.

"Earlier this month new health and safety law came into force. This new law means that Kiwis are safer at work -- but there is still work to be done."

Mr Wagstaff says particular attention needs to be paid to improving health and safety measures in regards to jobs on farms, and in jobs that put people into contact with asbestos -- which he refers to as "New Zealand's worst workplace killer".

With many families -- like Mr Pairama's -- who are still fighting for justice in court, today's memorials can help them move towards closure.

"On Workers Memorial Day all around the country events of remembrance are occurring. There are also events focused on fighting for the living; fundraising for the legal work which has justice in its sight for the families whose loved ones never came home," Mr Wagstaff said.

Volunteers will be out in force today to raise money "to help families ensure their loved ones are rightfully remembered when agencies and the courts investigate serious workplace accidents", the Workers Memorial Fund website says.

More than two million people die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases every year, according to the International Labour Organisation.

At least 20 countries now celebrate Workers Memorial Day.