Fight For Life: MUA's First National Safety Conference

The National Safety Conference, held in Brisbane in December 2012, has kicked off an industry-wide campaign to organise for safety.

The conference was attended by over 130 delegates and HSRs from all states and all corners of the industry, including seafarers, offshore oil and gas, stevedoring, towage, ferries, lines and other port workers.

Attendees were excited about opportunities under the new 'harmonised' work health and safety laws, which are now in effect in most states. The new laws give health and safety representatives some major clout to organise on the job for better safety.

Image - Fight to survive poster  
[Picture: Fight To Survive Campaign Poster: Fallen Wharfie Greg Fitzgibbon Is Circled In Red]  

Participants welcomed breakthroughs in the campaign for a national stevedoring code of practice. The code was put in jeopardy recently after major stevedoring companies and Shipping Australia attempted to block the code just one day after Greg Fitzgibbon was tragically killed doing his job in the hold of a ship in Newcastle. But thanks to massive protest action by MUA members around the the country, the is now process back on track. A new draft of the code is expected later this month.

But delegates also expressed grave concerns about shortcomings in the offshore safety regime, administered by NOPSEMA. This was recently illustrated in the aftermath of the tragic fatalities on the Stena Clyde in Bass Strait this year.  If the marine jurisdiction, which covers blue water seafarers, is harmonised next year in line with the new onshore laws, that will leave the offshore regime isolated and outside the mainstream of safety in this country. Licensing was also identified as a particular concern. Delegates noted that the national licensing regulations do not apply in the offshore, which is potentially a recipe for disaster.

Image - Warren Smith Addresses Natl Safety Conf 2012  
[Picture: Delegates Listen to Assistant Secretary Warren Smith During Key Discussion on Safety]  

The issue of fatigue was identified as a major issue. It was recognised that fatigue is endemic in our industry and is thought to be major cause of harm. Delegates resolved to increase our focus on this issue in 2013, including campaigns for better fatigue management plans and strategies to reduce the risk of harm due to fatigue.

Delegates came away from the conference with actions plans to build our organisation and capacity, including an interest in examining whether the safety conference should become a regular event on the MUA activist and leadership calendar.

The conference has already generated a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement back on the job. Since the conference many delegates have already taken positive steps to establish safety structures, get health and safety reps elected and trained, apply new tools and resources, and tackle safety issues at work.

We look forward to a big year in 2013 putting these plans into place.