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Forestry inquiry not needed, minister says

Thursday 4 Jul 2013 1:15 p.m.

An inquiry is looking into the deaths of four forestry workers (File)

An inquiry is looking into the deaths of four forestry workers (File)

By Peter Wilson

The new stand-alone workplace health and safety agency that's being set up is likely to take a hard look at the forestry industry, Labour Minister Simon Bridges says.

The union representing forestry workers and the Labour Party are calling for an inquiry after the deaths of four men this year but Mr Bridges doesn't think that's necessary.

"We know what the problem is - men have been dying in the forestry sector in far too large numbers for a very long time," he told NZ Newswire on Thursday.

"We have a strong sense of what the solutions are - I've already had many reports on this, I don't feel another one would be helpful."

Mr Bridges says the government signed up to an approved code of practice at the end of last year.

"It hasn't been there long, if it's put into practice that will solve these issues," he said.

The new agency, WorkSafe New Zealand, will be established under legislation that's going through parliament and Mr Bridges wants it up and running by December.

"I would be surprised if it wasn't looking very seriously and acting seriously in regard to the high fatality sectors, which are forestry, fisheries, construction, agriculture and manufacturing," he said.

Setting up a crown agency to deal with all workplace health and safety issues was a key recommendation in a taskforce report given to Mr Bridges on April 30.

After 10 months of consultation, analysis and research the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety reported that current systems were not fit for purpose.

It said no single critical factor was behind New Zealand's poor health and safety record, rather there was "a number of significant weaknesses" that needed addressing.

Mr Bridges says he's working his way through the raft of recommendations and will announce the government's response by the end of the month.

NZN

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