Port Botany Work Death

Second tragedy in a month as Sydney wharf worker killed on job at Port Botany

Maritime workers are in shock today as they mourn the death of a 49-year old worker employed by Patrick Stevedores crushed to death while loading containers at Sydney's Port Botany at 7.30pm on Sunday night.

"The name of the worker has not been released and his family and friends are naturally in shock and on behalf of every wharfie and seafarer across the country we extend our sympathies. We will do what ever we can to assist the family in its grief", Paddy Crumlin national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

"Some co-workers either saw the accident or its aftermath and are not only shocked but angered and frustrated by the general lack of attention to safety on our wharves. A Work Cover investigation and a coronial and other inquiries will follow. But this was a death that could have been avoided with a better safety culture and application of safe working practices", Crumlin said.

"A little more than a month ago Brad Gray tragically died in a workplace accident in Brisbane leaving behind a young family. It is obvious we have a serious deficit in worker welfare on our wharves and yet another tragedy shows that deregulated performance based arrangements are clearly not working. The need for stronger enforcement and compliance mechanisms is now urgent", said Crumlin. 

In the accident yesterday the man was loading containers onto the container ship Vega Gotland, a Flag of Convenience vessel.

The Port Botany death is the fifth fatality in little over three and a half years and the sixth since June 2003.Recent waterfront workplace fatalities include:

  • Jeff Grey, Appleton Dock, Melbourne, June 03
  • Dean Robinson, Port Adelaide, June 2006
  • Peter Ross, Appleton Dock, January 2007
  • Bob Cumberlidge, Westernport, March 2007
  • Brad Gray, Brisbane, March 2010 

Media Contact: Paddy Crumlin 0418 379660

Michael Meagher: 0410 482367

The latest fatality comes after urgent calls from the union for improved safety on the Australian waterfront.

Only last week the union warned that reform was a matter of life and death at the APAC Maritime Safety Conference in Melbourne.

"We have been calling for a full industry and government commitment to prevent further incidents," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin.  "This tragic death indicates again the urgency of that commitment. The MUA wants all state and federal authorities together with the stevedoring employers to get moving on it immediately."

A WorkCover spokesman said the worker was crushed between two shipping containers.

All ship work at the Patricks Port Botany Terminal has stopped until further notice.

It was the first work death at Port Botany since a forklift fatality at ANL terminal in May 1987.

"It is with great sadness that I report on another fatality on the waterfront," Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray reported.

Branch officials Paul McAleer, Glenn Wood, Paul Garrett, joined Mich-Elle Myers and Ian Bray on site as soon as they were notified.

Police were already on the scene and the crane operator was taken to hospital suffering shock.

The worksite committee was called to work to decide on when work on the ship would resume, with some straddle and terminal work continuing, the TWU and RTBU advising them of safety stoppage, and a further stop work on the day of the funeral.

"Despite the confusion and shock that members were enduring they still maintained a great sense of solidarity and spoke about the need of sticking together and supporting each other," Ian Bray reported.

Officials and committee met with management before midnight to ensure MUA

OH&S reps must be part of the investigation and we expect a completely transparent approach from the company and that there would be no return to work until the union and committee were satisfied that all matters regarding the fatality were addressed

The workforce have also called for action on the safety culture in the work place overall.  Patrick has agreed to work with the MUA and discuss the implementation of National Stevedoring Code of Practice OP throughout the company work sites

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin remained in communication throughout the night, which was appreciated by all, involved.
Patrick released a short statement this morning confirming the man's death and that the port would remain closed.

''Patrick and its employees are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of their workmates,'' the statement said.

''Counseling has been provided to support all employees that have been impacted by this and our condolences go out to all the family and friends of the employee involved in this terrible accident.

''Patrick is fully co-operating with the relevant authorities and will be conducting a full investigation into the incident.''

A police spokesman said a report was being prepared for the coroner.