Investigation launched following port deaths

Source: 1News

An independent investigation has been announced into the health and safety at New Zealand’s ports, following the deaths of two workers in one week.

Emergency services at Ports of Auckland on April 19, 2022

Port worker Atiroa Tuaiti died while working on a container ship at the Ports of Auckland on Tuesday, April 19.

It was followed by the death of a worker during a coal loading operation onto a ship at Lyttelton Port, in Christchurch, on Monday, April 25.

The investigation, to be carried out by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) is among a raft of actions announced by Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood.

“All New Zealanders should return from work safe and unharmed. Recently we have seen a disproportionate number of injuries and fatalities in the Port industry,” he said on Wednesday.

“The actions taken today will provide clarity on how we can reduce these serious incidents.”

The investigation into the deaths will determine if there are “any system-wide lessons to improve safety”.

“The TAIC investigation will provide an independent, safety-focused approach to identifying wider circumstances and causes of the accident,” he said.

“TAIC investigations are systemic, independent and impartial, with extensive legal powers to gather and protect evidence.”

All port companies have also been requested to “review their operations and provide assurances that the appropriate steps are being taken to minimise the risk of harm for all high-risk activities”.

The Ports Leadership Group has also been asked to provide advice on any additional priority actions for Wood to consider, including whether regulation changes are required.

In addition, Maritime New Zealand and WorkSafe will be carrying out assessments at all of the country’s 13 major international commercial ports over the next two weeks.

“We are sending a strong message to the port sector, every player must ensure they are doing all they can to reduce and manage risk,” he said.

READ MORE: Second port worker death reinforces need for inquiry - unions

It comes after Wood held an urgent meeting with unions and top port heads “to impress the need for an immediate shift to a ‘safety first’ culture”.

“Our ports play a crucial role in our economy, and as part of our economic recovery it is essential that they operate efficiently and safely,” he said.

“I want to acknowledge that there has been good process over recent months and I thank the sector for their continued engagement.

“Other sectors should also take notice from these recent events and remind themselves of their responsibilities to ensure the safety of their workplaces.”