Call for big changes at port

Last updated 05:00 06/09/2014
Jason Hammond

RAISING CONCERNS: Jason Hammond and his partner, Carol Stevens, are concerned about health and safety at Lyttelton Port.

Brad Fletcher
DEDICATED MAN: Lyttelton volunteer firefighter Brad Fletcher with his son, Zavian. Fletcher, a Lyttelton Port of Christchurch employee, was the third person to be killed in a port accident in 10 months. 

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A truck driver who was working at Lyttelton Port the night before a man was killed on the job believes more workers will die without major changes.

Other drivers, who no longer work at the port, have told The Press of a "below average" truck fleet, congested facilities and an environment where workers' health and safety concerns are not taken seriously enough.

Jason Hammond, 43, was hired as a contractor by Bill Frost, the owner of Drivertek, to drive "shuffle trucks" - transporting logs.

Frost died at the port after being pinned between a logging truck trailer and a forklift in November last year.

Hammond stopped getting calls to come into work about two and a half months ago.

He believes it was because he continued to question his new company, Interbulk Cartage, on health and safety matters.

Interbulk Cartage owner Dave Gluyas told The Press this was incorrect.

"When I asked him to stop working here, it was nothing to do with health and safety. He brought health and safety up afterwards," Gluyas said.

Hammond and his partner, Carol Stevens, have been lobbying Lyttelton Port of Company (LPC) and its contractors on health and safety issues for the past 10 weeks.

They met LPC health and safety manager Paul Dennis four times to raise their concerns.

Hammond claims many of the trucks he and others drove, owned by Forest Management (the trailers are owned by C3 and Laurie Forestry), were "below average" with poor braking systems.

In his view, a culture where drivers were expected to "buck up, shut up and do what you are told" also meant they were "stressed out" and "distracted" on the job.

Tony Abrahams, another former truck driver at the port, said passenger doors did not open from the inside in a couple of the trucks and some heaters did not work properly so windscreens iced or misted up in winter.

"The brakes are terrible on them . . . and the loads we had on were absolutely colossal. It was so dangerous," he said.

The 67-year-old said he stopped working at the port at the end of February because he did not like the way Interbulk Cartage operated.

Colin Black, who stopped driving trucks at the port in February, said: "The trucks were retired from the road. The brakes were inadequate, the heaters did not work and the lights were very poor on them - just to name three of the things that were not up to a safe standard."

Black, in his 60s, said he and other drivers raised concerns about the safety standards of the trucks but "we felt that we were not being listened to because the issues were not dealt with".

He and other drivers were expected to meet a standard of safety, but "other crews, particularly on foreign fishing vessels, were not required to".

"They hop off the boats and wander around the wharf. I nearly cleaned up one of those guys one night. It was so close it is not funny. He had a black coat on and no hi-vis gear."

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Mal Arnold, 54, who was working as a truck driver at the port when Frost died, said there were safety issues surrounding the condition of the trucks "and the fact that the loader drivers are under extreme pressure".

"They are very experienced operators, do not get me wrong, but they are absolutely pushed to the max, which is when accidents happen. They are lifting over 16 tonne. The back wheels are coming off the ground," Arnold said.

"[LPC] are responsible but there are a lot of things that they do not see. Everybody takes shortcuts, they are either ignorant or just apathetic. At the end of the day everyone has to be responsible for their own safety. It is the contractors that need to lift their game and be a little bit more accountable."

Another former driver, John Collie, 59, who previously worked as a manager in the forestry industry, said the port's "huge" and "tiered" operation, with LPC at the top and contractors and sub-contractors below, meant that health and safety got "watered down".

"We were employed by Bill as drivers, the trucks are owned by Forest Management, the trailers are owned by C3 . . . it is all sort of layered. It is a bit of a moving target sometimes, when you are talking about who is responsible. A tiered system can diffuse responsibility quite a bit," Collie said.

"Safety is a culture and it takes years to change. You cannot just change it overnight [but] it definitely can change. I have seen it with the people who come [to work at the port] from other parts of the country - especially the younger generation, who have a different perspective on safety - a better one."

Forest Management director David Janett said the company maintained its truck fleet, kept records and "any issues that are brought up are addressed immediately".

LPC chief executive Peter Davie said LPC was aware of Hammond's health and safety concerns but it thought "a satisfactory outcome for all" was achieved through a mediation session held last month.

"We were actively involved in working through the safety concerns with all parties and we engaged an independent facilitator to help resolve the issues. The partner of the sub contractor told us they were both satisfied with the steps LPC took to resolve their safety concerns," Davie said.

LPC had also led the formation of a Port Users Group to enhance safety, with a meeting at senior level already held and further meetings planned.

- The Press

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