3 Feb 2014

Port makes changes after safety failures

6:33 pm on 3 February 2014

Lyttelton Port says it has acted on all the recommendations from a highly critical report which says unsafe practices have endangered workers.

Following the deaths of two workers last year and the serious injury of another in January, the South Island port company has been issued with five worksafe improvement notices from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Containers stacked at Lyttelton Port's CityDepot.

Containers stacked at Lyttelton Port's CityDepot. Photo: RNZ

Site safety inspectors have found the company has been allowing empty containers to be stacked up to seven high at its dry dock in Ferrymead, meaning either strong winds or earthquakes could cause a collapse.

In the January incident, a forklift driver was seriously injured when he was crushed by containers that fell onto his machine at the depot.

The inspectors also found containers were hazardously stacked up against neighbouring fences or were on uneven ground and were misaligned, both practices endangering passers-by.

The ministry said the port had also failed to ensure the safety of workers by not having any speed limit or directional signage at the depot, and said operators were moving at dangerous speeds.

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch has responded to all of the recommendations and has undertaken to immediately rectify all of the faults. It has also recently employed a full time health and safety manager.

Chief executive Peter Davie said investigations indicate the January accident was not a result of poorly stacked containers. He said the forklift itself tripped the containers and sent them falling.

Mr Davie said the ground has been leveled in the yard and containers have been restacked as required by the ministry.

Rail and Maritime Union organiser John Kerr said the company has breached basic health and safety principles and the union had raised safety concerns a month before the worker was crushed.

However, he said the port has acted quickly to rectify the problems identified.

He told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme he hopes the company is punished with some kind of sanction.

Mr Kerr said the port needs to get its act together on safety issues but he is pleased it has appointed a health and safety manager.