Port worker injured: Lack of training blamed

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 12:38 06/01/2014
Lyttelton Port container accident
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CRUSHED: A man was injured after a container fell crushing the cab of his forklift.

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A Lyttelton Port worker says driver training is a major problem at the city depot yard in Woolston.

A forklift operator was injured after a shipping container fell on him at Lyttelton Port Company's (LPC) city depot yard about 7.30am on Saturday.

The driver suffered head injuries and was taken to Christchurch Hospital. He may have to undergo reconstructive surgery on Wednesday to repair shattered bones in his skull.

An LPC worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said the injured driver had pulled a stack of seven shipping containers down, with one crushing the cab of his forklift. 

"You could certainly hear when that container came down. The noise is what got our attention."

The driver, aged in his 20s, managed to get out the cab by himself and was coherent when emergency services arrived. He was "lucky to be alive", the worker said.

He had been with the company for three weeks when Saturday's incident happened.

''The driver training is our main problem. We think it should be mandatory six-week training, like it is over on the [Lyttelton] port. Here you can be driving by yourself within a week-and-a half,'' the anonymous LPC worker said.

He said company management visited the yard after the incident to talk through what happened, but ongoing health and safety issues at the site were a concern for many workers.

Worker fatigue and a full yard were also causing health and safety issues at the city depot.

''The yard is getting so full and the company hasn't done enough to alleviate the problem. There are guys working seven days a week and they're getting run down. One just finished a 28-day stint and that's driving 10 hours a day.''

The worker said he hoped Saturday's incident ''opened a few eyes''. 

''It's only a matter of time before somebody gets killed here.''

A WorkSafe New Zealand spokesman said the authority had been notified and were making preliminary enquiries. 

LPC operations manager Paul Monk said the company would carry out a full investigation into the incident and would cooperate fully with WorkSafe NZ. 

"From the port company point-of-view we'd be concerned about any accident, particularly a significant one like this."

It was "too early to speculate" on the cause of the incident, he said.

"Experience has taught me that what you see initially is not always what you see at the end. We will look at the causes and ... how to prevent an accident like this."

The company was working hard to support the injured man and his family and wished him a speedy recovery, Monk said. 

INCIDENT FOLLOWS TWO RECENT DEATHS

The incident follows two deaths at Lyttelton Port late last year.

Transport company owner Bill Frost, 58, of Coalgate, had almost finished work for the day when he was pinned between and 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, 49, died after being struck on the head while unloading fertiliser from a ship moored at the port. 

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The incidents prompted concerns about the safety of port workers from two national unions.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson last month said everyone was ''feeling the pressure'', with workloads increasing following Canterbury's earthquakes. 

"It certainly is a port that is under stress," he said.

LPC chief executive Peter Davie said he was concerned two fatalities had happened within such a short time frame.

However, Ritchie's death was in an area outside of the port's control and stevedore companies were responsibility to ensure their employees' safety, he said.

- The Press

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