Port safety update

31 May 2022

In the April issue of SeaChange, I mentioned the tragic deaths of port workers at Auckland and Lyttelton, and that the Minister of Transport had requested action be taken to address risks at ports across New Zealand. I’d now like to give you an update about the work underway, which is:

  • Port Health and Safety Leadership Group advice
  • assessments at ports
  • statutory investigations.

I’d like to thank everyone involved - port companies, stevedoring firms, unions - for your cooperation and commitment to this important work.


Port Health and Safety Leadership Group advice

This advice will be the central piece of work from the Minister’s request. It will advise the Minister about key actions for the future and about a work plan to improve safety in ports, including whether regulation changes are required. It’s expected to be completed by September or October.

The Leadership Group will gather data and insights about safety issues in ports and the three critical risks it had already determined (falls from heights, person versus machine, and suspended loads). It will also research best practice and interventions used in other countries. The data, research, and information from the other work I describe later in this article will inform the advice to the Minister.

Chaired by Maritime NZ, the Leadership Group was established last year, and oversees the Port Health and Safety Plan, which takes a harm prevention approach. The Leadership Group now includes representatives from WorkSafe, ports, unions and the stevedoring sector.


Assessments at ports

The Minister asked Maritime NZ and WorkSafe to undertake joint health and safety assessments in each of the 13 major international commercial ports. These snapshots of activity at ports on given days will be provided to the Minister and will help inform the Leadership Group’s work.

Maritime NZ and WorkSafe staff have completed the port visits, and the information they gathered is now being moderated by Maritime NZ and WorkSafe to ensure consistency of approach.

As the PCBU reports are completed they are sent to each PCBU for their comment. If you’re one of the PCBUs involved, you will receive your reports shortly so that you can reply to Maritime NZ with your feedback.

The PCBU reports will be combined into a summary for each port, with the summaries identifying themes and trends as at the time of the assessment. These will be completed after we’ve received the responses from those that were assessed.


Statutory investigations

The Minister has directed the Transport Accident Investigation Commission to investigate the recent port fatalities to inform a thorough understanding of the circumstances leading to these fatalities, and the safety lessons that can be learnt from them.

Maritime NZ is also conducting separate investigations into the Lyttelton and Auckland fatalities under its Health and Safety at Work Act and Maritime Transport Act jurisdiction.

Kirstie Hewlett, Director, Maritime NZ