Sunday, April 14, 2024

Minister orders ports investigation following workplace deaths

The health and safety practices at our nation’s ports will be investigated as part of a range of actions taken by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety in response to two deaths in the space of a week.

“All New Zealanders should return from work safe and unharmed. Recently we have seen a disproportionate number of injuries and fatalities in the port industry. The actions taken today will provide clarity on how we can reduce these serious incidents,” said the sector’s Minister Michael Wood.   

The Minister has directed the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) to commence an investigation into the recent port fatalities to determine any system wide lessons to improve safety.

He has also requested all port companies to review their operations and provide assurances that the appropriate steps are being taken to minimise the risk of harm for all high risk activities and asked the Ports Leadership Group to prepare advice on additional priority actions for the Minister to consider, including whether regulation changes are required.

In addition, Maritime New Zealand officers and WorkSafe inspectors will be undertaking assessments at each of the 13 major international commercial ports around the country over the next fortnight.

“We are sending a strong message to the port sector, every player must ensure they are doing all they can to reduce and manage risk,” said Mr Wood.   

“The TAIC investigation will provide an independent, safety focused approach to identifying wider circumstances and causes of the accident. TAIC investigations are systemic, independent and impartial, with extensive legal powers to gather and protect evidence.

“I know New Zealanders will be rightly concerned about the safety culture at our country’s ports. Today I met with port heads, unions, stevedore representatives and regulators to impress the need for an immediate shift to a safety first culture.

“Our ports play a crucial role in our economy, and as part of our economic recovery it is essential that they operate efficiently and safely. I want to acknowledge that there has been good process over recent months and I thank the sector for their continued engagement.

“Other sectors should also take notice from these recent events and remind themselves of their responsibilities to ensure the safety of their workplaces,” he said. 

A Lyttelton Port Company worker was killed on a ship that was being loaded with coal at Cashin Quay on Monday. His death followed a fatality at the Ports of Auckland the previous week where a 26-year-old worker fell to his death. 

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