The Government has announced an industry-wide change to health and safety at ports after two workers died within less than a week of one another in April last year.
Ōtara resident Atiroa Tuaiti died after a “fall from height” while working on a docked Singaporean container ship at the Ports of Auckland. Days later Don Grant died while coal was being loaded onto a ship at Lyttelton Port.
Transport Minister and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood said these deaths spurred him to improve conditions.
“I asked the Port Health and Safety Leadership Group to pull together a detailed picture of what is happening in ports and create a plan to address serious harm,” Wood said.
“The group has worked together to provide this important insights picture and action plan, and I fully support the work taking place.”
The plan sets out action across six areas of safety including worker fatigue, unloading cargo, and reporting incidents.
“The leadership group has already rolled out guidelines for setting up a fatigue risk management system and is providing workshops, training, education and resources,” Wood said.
Port Health and Safety Leadership Group chair and Maritime New Zealand chief executive Kirstie Hewlett said they owed it to workers, people who have died, their families, and those who have been injured to improve safety.
Over the past 10 years, 18 people have died at ports in New Zealand.
Maritime Union of New Zealand national secretary Craig Harrison said these deaths have hit workers hard.
“There’s been deaths in our industry that were unnecessary, and we should never see that again, and I’ve gone to too many funerals over the last couple of years and I don’t want to go to anymore,” Harrison said.
Workers have reported poor shift management making it difficult to manage sleep patterns, as well as pressure to come back to work early or do extra shifts to plug gaps.
Harrison was encouraged to see guidance released to manage risks associated with worker fatigue.
“This is massive for an industry that’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a massive amount of hours being worked,” he said.
“We’ve got to be honest, we’ve had to educate not only the employer but the employees who have structured their lives around these high hours.”
Incident reporting has been improved across the ports so the sector can get a better real-time understanding of harm and take necessary action.
WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes said it was not an easy task to get the regulator, the industry, workers, and unions on the same page when there was a history of low trust levels.
But Parkes said there was now a shared depository of data across all the ports and organisations involved in the action plan.
“So we now have a single source of what goes wrong on ports where, how and when and that’s the foundation for making a difference, because if we know where the harm’s happening, and we know what the causes are, then we can target the actions to make a difference.”
Maritime New Zealand and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission continue to investigate last year’s tragic deaths.