Port company to take lead role in lifting safety

22:37, Jan 22 2014
Lyttelton Port container accident
CRUSHED: A man was injured after a container fell crushing the cab of his forklift.

Lyttelton Port says health and safety is at the top of its agenda following two deaths and a serious injury at port facilities.

Earlier this month an LPC worker was seriously injured when a stacked container fell and crushed the cab of his forklift at the port's inland container depot in Woolston.

The incident follows two deaths at the port late last year of workers who were not employed by LPC but by companies working at the port.

However, a union says the port company has been lax in its approach to health and safety and in hiring a dedicated H&S manager.

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch chief executive Peter Davie said health and safety will be the No 1 agenda item at the board's next meeting.

Chairman Trevor Burt added the port company would look to lead other companies working around the port on the issue.


Transport company owner Bill Frost, of Coalgate, died when he was pinned between a logging truck trailer and a forklift on the port's No 2 Wharf on November 27.

On December 21, Lyttelton Stevedoring Services employee Warren Ritchie died after being struck on the head while on board unloading fertiliser from a ship moored at the port.

One port industry insider, who did not want to be named, said following the incidents LPC had failed to take responsibility in leading better workplace behaviour at Lyttelton.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union South Island organiser John Kerr said the port had taken too long appointing a dedicated health and safety manager to liaise with other companies.

It had been about a year since the port had a dedicated person in that position and there was no-one working permanently in the role yesterday as far as he understood.

"What we hear from our members is that they raise [safety] concerns and nothing happens," Kerr said.

Davie and Burt disputed Kerr's view, saying there had been contractors acting in the role following the resignation of a health and safety manager about a year ago.

A new person was appointed to the position a month ago. LPC managers in all parts of the business also had a responsibility for the safety of their staff and contractors.

Kerr said on the positive side, there had been recent cooperation between the unions and the port on putting in place trained health and safety representatives.

At the time of LPC's annual meeting in early November, David Faulkner, chairman of Port of Otago, a shareholder in the port company, said Lyttelton did not publish enough material on its workplace accidents or lost time injuries.

He did not think LPC's health and safety record was good, and suggested any bonuses paid to the chief executive should reflect the safety record.

Faulkner said this week he did not want to comment further following the recent accidents.

Davie said safety at Lyttelton was complex, with many firms involved in multiple work functions. For example, there had been an oil company's facilities at the port for about 100 years but LPC had no expertise in that fuel-based workplace.

"The difficulty . . . and we're doing quite a lot of work on this at the moment, is determining how far your reach should be," Davie said.

Burt said he would discuss the safety issue at an upcoming board meeting and LPC's influence in coming months on other businesses.

"What we have to do . . . is take a more leadership role within this . . . There are complex working relationships (at the port). We've got a responsibility at a number of levels."

He said improvements were best led by behavioural change, rather than linking safety to chief executive bonus payments.

A WorkSafe NZ spokesman said investigations into the port incidents were ongoing.