More accidents follow calls for national inquiry into port safety

A Port of Lyttelton worker suffered a broken arm on Tuesday morning (3 March 2015) after a fall aboard a vessel.

Two C3 employees in the Port of Timaru were taken to hospital after an incident aboard a container vessel on the early morning of Wednesday (4 March 2015).

One of the workers was transferred to Christchurch hospital with serious back injuries.

In both cases, the workers were Maritime Union members.

Maritime Union National Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the ongoing and regular accidents in the port sector showed there were “systemic and deep rooted problems” that needed to be brought into the open.

Mr Fleetwood says he was concerned other incidents were happening in ports but had gone under a “cone of silence.”

He says the relevant Government agencies and port companies should be being proactive about notifying all interested parties immediately as health and safety incidents occurred, including unions and media.

In some cases, such as the Port of Tauranga last year, a worker had suffered fatal injuries but many workers in the port were unaware of the incident.

It took days for the full details to emerge after media inquiries to the employer were left unanswered and the port company tried to distance itself.

“There seems to be a reluctance to front up when incidents happen. It’s almost as it there is an attitude that the problem is the employers and port companies looking bad.”

“The real problem is that maritime workers are being maimed or killed.”

Mr Fleetwood says that port companies had an overall responsibility of what happened in the port, and had a duty of care to all workers in their port, not just those directly employed.

He says contracting out, casualization, irregular and long shifts, reduced manning, and increasing pressure for speed up of work were all contributing to the crisis in port safety.

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