CentrePort defends safety procedures

Last updated 14:19 26/05/2014

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The manager in charge of health and safety at Wellington port company CentrePort, where a worker was crushed to death, has defended the way staff were trained and used safety procedures.

In Wellington District Court today general manager of port operations, Steve Harris, said safety was a priority, not an afterthought, at every level of the organisation. 

"It is the first thing I have to make sure is right every day," he told Judge Bill Hastings today.

Sending staff home safe was the company's first responsibility, Harris said.The company has pleaded not guilty to having failed take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of Mark Samoa, 47, who was killed on the job on January 20, last year.

Samoa, a cargo handler, was pasting labels between two paper pulp packs each weighing more than four tonnes. A forklift driver did not realise Samoa was there and pushed the packs together, fatally crushing him.The company says the forklift driver broke several rules and procedures. He no longer works for the company.

Harris said CentrePort had a "Be safe" mantra that was the focus of a five-year plan to achieve the "zero harm" goal in the company.

In 2001 CentrePort reached the highest level in an ACC safety audit and has kept that level since then.Last week the court was told a specialist in the "human factors" of health and safety criticised aspects of the company's procedures including using a "buddy" system to train staff.

Harris said the company researched the best ways to train staff in roles where safety was critical.The buddy system of having inexperienced staff observe experience workers, then work alongside them and perform the role under supervision was best suited to training manual workers and when literacy might be an issue. It was modelled on the craft way of learning, he said.

Staff also gained national qualifications and unit standards which give a sense of consistency. For some staff the qualifications and unit standards were the first qualifications they had earned and they reacted positively to it, Harris said.CentrePort's staff were a tight knit group who "had each other's backs", Harris said.

His evidence is continuing.

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