A business owner who put motorists at risk when felling trees has been criticised for his ‘dismissive attitude’ toward health and safety.
Kevin Howard Stratford, who operates Stratford Logging, was convicted in the Nelson District Court this week.
Over the course of 2021 Mr Stratford carried out tree felling in Takaka Hill at a site directly adjacent to State Highway 60.
WorkSafe was notified in August 2021 by an experienced tree feller that the work was being carried out with disregard for industry standards, in particular that trees were being felled very close to the road with no traffic management in place.
WorkSafe opened an investigation. An independent forestry expert who assisted WorkSafe’s investigation found felling techniques were of ‘very poor quality’, well below industry standards and posed a serious risk to all in the area.
Several trees had been cut in a way which increased the risk of ‘barberchairing’. Barberchairing is an exceptionally dangerous situation where a tree splits vertically from top to bottom before breaking away. Workers on site also didn’t have the relevant qualifications do the work.
“The way work was done with no warning signage or traffic management put people at great risk, including innocent bystanders driving along the road,” says WorkSafe Regional Manager Juliet Bruce.
“There were steps Mr Stratford should have taken, including not felling trees within two lengths of a public road, putting in place temporary traffic management controls with authorisation of the Road Controlling Authority and ensuring all workers were adequately trained. He was also required to notify WorkSafe before he began tree felling.”
WorkSafe issued Mr Stratford with four Prohibition Notices and 28 Improvement Notices since 2013 in relation to unsafe tree felling, failing to notify of tree felling work, workers having inadequate qualifications and having an insufficient health and safety system. Mr Stratford was also convicted in 1998 for failing to ensure the safety of an employee.
“There has been a huge amount of enforcement action against Mr Stratford to motivate him to keep people safe, but he persisted in his poor practices and the only option left for WorkSafe was to prosecute,” says Ms Bruce.
In sentencing Mr Stratford, Judge Jo Rielly was critical of his ‘dismissive attitude’, commenting ‘you are a person who has put your concerns around financial costs involved in completing work ahead of important safety considerations’.
WorkSafe has several pieces of guidance on its website related to tree felling:
- Approved Code of Practice for Safety and Health in Forestry Operations
- Treefelling Best Practice Guide
- Managing a Safe and Healthy Small Forest Harvest (WorkSafe Good Practice Guidelines)
- Kevin Howard Stratford was sentenced at Nelson District Court on 23 January 2024.
- A fine of $56,000 was imposed.
- Kevin Howard Stratford was charged under sections 36(2) and 48(1) and (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015;
- Being a PCBU, failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of other persons, was not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.
- The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.