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Business Owner Convicted for Unsafe Tree Felling Practices: Expert Tips & Advice for Zero Compromises

A business owner who put motorists at risk when felling trees has been criticised for his ‘dismissive attitude’ toward health and safety.

Unsafe Practices and Investigation

Kevin Howard Stratford, the operator of Stratford Logging, was convicted in the Nelson District Court for his unsafe tree felling practices. WorkSafe, the regulatory authority, was notified in August 2021 by an experienced tree feller about the disregard for industry standards at a site adjacent to State Highway 60 in Takaka Hill.

Upon investigation, it was found that the felling techniques used by Mr Stratford were of very poor quality and well below industry standards. These techniques posed a serious risk to everyone in the area. Additionally, several trees were cut in a way that increased the risk of ‘barberchairing’, a dangerous situation where a tree splits vertically before breaking away. The workers involved in the operation were also found to lack the necessary qualifications.

Risks to Public Safety

The lack of warning signage and traffic management during the tree felling put people, including innocent bystanders driving along the road, at great risk. WorkSafe Regional Manager Juliet Bruce emphasized that Mr Stratford should have taken several necessary steps to ensure safety, such as not felling trees within two lengths of a public road, implementing temporary traffic management controls authorized by the Road Controlling Authority, ensuring adequate worker training, and notifying WorkSafe before commencing tree felling.

Past Enforcement Actions

WorkSafe had previously issued Mr Stratford with four Prohibition Notices and 28 Improvement Notices since 2013, related to unsafe tree felling, failure to notify of tree felling work, inadequate worker qualifications, and an insufficient health and safety system. In 1998, Mr Stratford was also convicted for failing to ensure the safety of an employee.

Court Sentencing and Critique

In the sentencing, Judge Jo Rielly criticized Mr Stratford’s dismissive attitude towards safety and prioritizing financial costs over important safety considerations. As a result, Mr Stratford was fined $56,000.

Implementing Safety Measures in the Workplace

Ensuring health and safety in the workplace is crucial. Here are some practical tips and advice for implementing safety measures when felling trees:

1. Follow industry standards:

Adhere to industry standards and guidelines for tree felling techniques. This includes proper cutting methods and equipment usage.

2. Maintain a safe distance from roads:

Avoid felling trees within two lengths of a public road to prevent potential risks to motorists and bystanders.

3. Implement traffic management controls:

Obtain authorization from the Road Controlling Authority and implement temporary traffic management controls when conducting tree felling near roadways. This helps to ensure the safety of both workers and the public.

4. Ensure worker qualifications and training:

Only assign qualified and trained workers to carry out tree felling activities. Proper training ensures that workers understand safety procedures and can mitigate risks effectively.

5. Communicate and notify WorkSafe:

Prior to any tree felling work, notify WorkSafe to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations. This helps to maintain a safe working environment and prevent potential accidents.

By following these safety measures, businesses can prioritize the well-being of their workers and the general public, avoiding legal repercussions and potential harm.

For more information and guidance on tree felling safety, visit the WorkSafe website.

Reference: No place for corner cutting when felling trees

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