Port company fights use of its own report in court

Port company CentrePort does not want a judge to consider its own report into the fatal crushing of one of its workers last year.

A forklift driver accidentally trapped Mark Samoa, 47, between stacks of paper pulp packs that Samoa was labelling. Each pack weighed more than 4 tonnes.

As a result of the accident that killed Samoa in a shed on the Wellington waterfront on January 20 last year, CentrePort was charged with failing to take all practicable steps to ensure he was not exposed to hazards from the use of the forklift. The forklift driver, 24, was not charged. He no longer works for the company.

At a hearing that began on Monday, the company is defending its training and work processes. It says the driver broke a number of rules and procedures when the accident happened.

Yesterday the court was told that CentrePort would not give health and safety inspector Rob Birse a copy of its own investigation report.

However, CentrePort gave a document to Samoa's family, Birse asked a family member for a copy, and was given one.

In court today, Judge Bill Hastings is expected to hear CentrePort's legal argument on why the document should not be part of the evidence he is to consider in relation to the charge.

Birse had earlier told the court that, as a result of his preliminary inquiries into the accident, he became concerned that a mix of permanent and part-time staff were working that night, duties were changed when it began to rain, staff had different ways of performing the same work, and there was ambiguity about the processes being used.

He requested information from the company and it was supplied promptly. The company did not want its health and safety co-ordinator interviewed and instead its general manager of port operations, Steve Harris, spoke for the company.

During the investigation, the company was upset that inspectors, then from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment but now from WorkSafe NZ, were approaching CentrePort staff directly, Birse said.

The company wanted to arrange inspectors' meetings with staff. Birse said he understood the employees were happy for the company to do that.

He recommended the company not have forklifts operating in the same row as staff were labelling packs. Samoa was between packs pasting on labels when a forklift driver returned to straighten a pack that was out of line with the rest.

The Dominion Post