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Ports of Auckland prioritised productivity over safety, has systemic health and safety issues, review finds

Ports of Auckland has a culture of prioritising productivity over safety as well as systemic health and safety problems, an independent review of health and safety commissioned after three deaths at the port has found.

Source: 1 NEWS

The findings of the review, which was conducted by Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ), were announced at a media conference by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff this morning.

Two of its findings were relevant to night shift workers after the review was commissioned by Auckland Council following the death of Pala'amo Kalati, who was crushed by a container on an overnight shift last August.

The review found that night shift workers “felt there was a potentially different culture at night where control adherence differed from training and procedures, in particular for high risk work such as lashing.

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Ports of Auckland has a culture of prioritising productivity over safety as well as systemic health and safety problems, an independent review found. Source: 1 NEWS

“This was exacerbated with lower levels of supervision and oversight by the health and safety function.”

They also perceived “that there are times where inconsistency in resourcing levels compromises the ability to work safely”.

Kalati‘s death came less than two weeks after the company admitted a health and safety charge at the Auckland District Court, following the death of a 23-year-old straddle crane driver, in 2018.

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In April 2017, Auckland man Leslie Gelberger was fatally struck by a speeding Ports of Auckland pilot boat while he was swimming off a North Shore beach.

“When someone goes to work, they should go back home to their families and loved ones,” Goff said.

“Health and safety rules that keep people safe are not ‘a nice to have’. They are a vital component of good management in any workplace.”

New requirement for Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson included, “to prioritise safety over productivity and profitability, improve trust and communication between management and staff, and for a new health and safety manager to report directly to the chief executive and the board”, Goff said.

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“Ports of Auckland Chair Bill Osborne has acknowledged that the culture of health and safety at the Ports has been poor and has fully committed the board to implement the recommendations of the review.”

The review also found that “a clear history of industrial dissent may be a barrier to the development of a future positive culture within the workforce”.

“The legacy of labour relations dissent is hampering the underlying organisational culture. All stakeholders should work positively to focus on creating a culture where H&S is the primary focus and minimum H&S expectations are agreed, supported and acted upon,” the reviewers wrote.

That comes after Maritime Union of NZ’s Auckland branch secretary Russell Mayn told Breakfast this morning that workers who rallied against productivity being prioritised over safety “were accused of using health and safety as an industrial tool”.

The review also found that reporting of incidents may not adequately capture the volume of incidents because of a number of issues, including worker’s “perception that line management do not follow up on H&S issues and see those raising them as troublemakers”.

The Ports will now be required to file regular reports about the implementation of changes to Auckland Council, with the reports to be made public.

“I now expect Ports of Auckland to implement these recommendations without delay and more importantly to hold management to account on monitoring and compliance,” Goff said.