Forestry company ordered to pay $375,000 after worker fatally crushed by tree

The victim had been manually felling trees using a chainsaw when the incident happened.
The victim had been manually felling trees using a chainsaw when the incident happened. Photo credit: Getty

A forestry company has been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay reparations of $365,225 after a worker died on the job.

Sullivan Contractors 2005 Limited was sentenced in the Whangarei District Court on Tuesday in relation to the death, which occured in May 2017.

The victim, who had been manually felling trees using a chainsaw, was found unresponsive under a fallen tree, having sustained fatal crushing injuries, WorkSafe said in a statement on Thursday.

Although there were no witnesses to the incident, an investigation found it was likely a tree the worker had felled had brushed past a dead tree, causing the dead tree to uproot and fall, pinning and fatally injuring the worker.

WorkSafe’s area manager Danielle Henry said Sullivan Contractors had failed to assess the wood block effectively for risks before beginning work.

"The number of dead trees in the block should have been properly considered for the risk they posed and proper ways of working around them should have been managed," Henry said.

"WorkSafe guidance recommends that dead trees be machine-felled where possible before manual felling takes place.

"Sullivan Contractors should have completed a full hazard and risk assessment of the block before work took place. This would have helped them identify appropriate controls that needed to be implemented to ensure worker’s health and safety."

As well as the fine of $10,000, the court ordered the company to pay the victim's family reparations of $110,000 for emotional harm and $255,225 for consequential losses.

Asian Natural Resources, the company that engaged Sullivan Contractors to harvest the wood block, was also fined $7000 in relation to the incident.

Although the court found the victim's death was not caused by Asian Natural Resources, the company was sentenced under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 for failing to consult with Sullivan Contractors.