Be Careful Out There: A Christmas Safety Message

The tragic deaths this week of a wharfie from Lyttleton, NZ, working on board a fertiliser vessel, and a TWU member at CBH grain terminal in Kwinana, WA, remind us that no workplace issue is more important than our safety on the job.

2013 has been a big year in safety

It has been a landmark year for safety in our industry. MUA members ramped up our campaign for a stevedoring code of practice - although we continue to face massive obstacles from stevedoring companies who oppose the code.

In seafaring, the MUA delegates have been working hard to establish trained HSRs on-board every vessel. At the same time, we are using the long-standing Seafarers’ Code of Practice more and more to achieve better safety at sea.

In the offshore, the union has been working with other Petroleum unions and the ACTU to expose severe shortcomings in the offshore safety regime. Nothing illustrates these problems more than NOPSEMA’s botched handling of the two shocking fatalities on board the Stena Clyde last year.

Across all parts of the maritime industry we are better organised around safety than ever, with hundreds of trained HSRs and delegates, who know their rights and are determined to fight for better safety.

Campaign targets unsafe ships in stevedoring

With 14 times the rate of death and injury compared with the average Australian worker, stevedoring remains a key battle ground.

On the waterfront, our consistent and coordinated approach to unsafe ships has had some stunning success. HSRs from container terminals around the country have worked together to achieve a strong and consistent and coordinated national approach to substandard ships.

The plan emerged from a national meeting of HSRs held in Adelaide in October. At that meeting, HSRs met with AMSA to clarify the correct process for dealing with unsafe ships. Since then, MUA representatives have met with all state regulators to confirm their obligations in dealing with the safety issues on these non-compliant death-traps.

Out of this process we have developed a coordinated national plan to improve safety on these substandard ships, which is being applied in all terminals.

APL Turquoise dispute sends a message to the industry

A fantastic example was the infamous APL Turquoise. This death-trap had a number of serious safety issues, some of which were structural, and did not meet minimum safety standards under AMSA’s Marine Order 32.

When it came alongside in Fremantle, the ship was on its six run. The shipowner had been given numerous opportunities to rectify the problems. A ship inspection was done, which detailed a raft of alarming safety problems. Local management made a series of forceful attempts to get the workers to remove the risk assessment. But HSRs and members, with strong support from the branch, stuck to their principled position. The Turquoise was eventually turned around without any cargo being unloaded.

Hazardous vessel in Brisbane this week

In recent weeks the enforcement campaign has gathered pace. A hazardous vessel called Xin Tian Jin (pictured) called at DPW in Brisbane this week. A ship inspection identified many serious safety problems.

DPW management were determined to get MUA members to work the unsafe and non-compliant areas of the ship, despite a deficiency notice from AMSA which ruled that the substandard vessel does not comply with Australian law.

MUA members held firm, with great support from the branch. No one wants to see a member killed or seriously hurt so close to Christmas.

There have been many other examples in each branch. These landmark disputes have sent a strong message to the industry: We will fight to survive.

Next: bulk and general

We look forward to expanding this work in 2014 to include bulk and general, a diverse part of the industry with even more serious safety challenges.

A national meeting of HSRs representing bulk and general industry will be held early in the new year to develop a similar coordinated national approach.

On behalf of MUA national office, congratulations to all MUA members, delegates and HSRs who have supported the unions campaigns for better safety. We wish all members a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.

Authorised by Warren Smith, Assistant National Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia, 365 Sussex St, Sydney NSW 2000

===============================