Near Death In Port Kembla

28 tonne load misses waterside workers by less than a metre as union steps up call for safety code

Just one day after a waterside workers buried a workmate in Sydney, and a week after another was hospitalised in Melbourne with life threatening injuries, another three dock workers have narrowly escaped death in Port Kembla.

A 28 tonne slab of steel, the block off a crane and the crane's wire came crashing into the ship's hold less than a metre away from where the three workers were standing.

"These men should rush out and buy themselves a lottery ticket. How they are still with us is a miracle and comes only a day after dockworkers said goodbye to their colleague Nick Fanos after he was crushed by containers at Patricks in Sydney", said Paddy Crumlin, the Maritime Union of Australia's National Secretary.

"It's just another wake up call that we need a national safety code on our wharves, including full ship inspections before job start.  This accident also points to the acute need for the Government to introduce measures it's considering to vitalise Australian shipping to see that Australian ships and crew predominantly service our coastal trade. The alternative is these flag of convenience ships, often ships of shame, destroying our environment and threatening workers lives", said Crumlin.

The three men were working onboard the Panamanian flag of convenience vessel Cos Knight at the Blue Scope Steel, Patrick Stevedores wharves at Port Kembla, loading slabs of steel for Korea, when the wire on the ship's crane snapped.

"Our guys had just lowered a load in the hold of the ship and were moving the second slab when bang - the wire snapped and it fell from around 2 metres above where they'd been standing," said MUA branch secretary Gary Keane.

"They'd just taken a step back. As the steel load came down they dived out of the way.  The steel wire itself could have sliced them in half.  One bloke dived into a hole between two loads of steel, they others jumped onto another load" Keane said.

Had the workers been overseeing another lift from the wharf, the wire could have snapped with the load 25 metres up and there would have been little chance of anyone escaping alive.

Dock workers in ports across Australia resolved at stop work meetings on Wednesday - at the same time as Nick Fanos' service - for the Government to establish a Stevedoring Safety Task Force, to lead to the finalisation of a deregulated National Stevedoring Safety Code of Practice.

See also

Dock workers cheat death as steel slabs topple
Illawara Mercury