No, we aren’t all at fault for dangerous forests and headline writers who say otherwise should be sacked

If people stay out they won't be hurt.

If people stay out they won’t be hurt.

Alf will be taking up the matter of a new law to punish headline writers who mislead their readers.

We already have laws to deal with misleading advertising.

Why not laws to deal with misleading headlines?

The thought has crossed Alf’s mind on many previous occasions, but was reignited by something he spotted in the NZ Herald today:

Dangerous forests everyone’s fault: report

“Bugger me,” your hard-working member was prompted to fret.

“What have I done to make our forests dangerous?”

The answer, of course, is nothing and he soon became irked that he had needlessly suffered pangs of guilt.

For starters, the danger referred to in the article beneath the headline was dealing with a safety review of the forestry industry, which is an industry committed to cutting down the forests, which means it is ridding us of dangerous forests if the forests indeed are dangerous, and accordingly should be commended for doing good deeds.

For seconds, it’s the industry that is dangerous. The safety review was focused on dangers that stem from the way the forests are cut down and milled by those whose job is to rid us of forests, whether they be dangerous or not.

And for thirds,  these dangers are not everyone’s fault.  They are  the fault – according to a report – of those involved in the aforementioned cutting down of the forests.

This should have been obvious to the headline writer had he/she read the first paragraph of the Herald’s account:

 A union has attacked “antipathy” against forestry workers and their representatives, as a safety review pins the blame for the industry’s high fatality rate on everyone involved

The final report of the Independent Forestry Safety Review panel, released in Rotorua yesterday, has been welcomed by industry and workers.

The report identified the likely causes and contributing factors to the high rate of serious injuries and fatalities in forestry, which was regarded as New Zealand’s most dangerous industry.

The union cited in the first paragraph was First Union.

The newspaper hack therefore should have said a union leader attacked antipathy against forestry workers and their representatives.

The “attack” was done by the general secretary, Robert Reid. He said the report was a wake-up call for everyone in the industry, including unions.

“For far too long there has been an antipathy against worker representatives and unions in the forest sector,” he said.

“The forest safety report pulls no punches and puts the responsibility on all forestry stakeholders including workers and unions to work together to bring a sea change of safety improvements in the industry.”

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said the Government supported the findings of the review and the establishment of a forestry leaders’ action group.

But how dangerous is the industry (which is not the same as asking how dangerous are the forests)?

Since 2008, 32 people have died working in New Zealand forests.

The injury rate is double that of other sectors and the fatality rate is 15 times the overall rate for all industries combined, according to Statistics New Zealand and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

If Alf had his way, there would be a similarly high incidence of sackings in the headline-writing industry.

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