Safety Alerts

Workers at DP World, Melbourne, downed tools on December 14 over the mishandling of a job accident.

SEVERED FINGER

Two days earlier, waterside worker Pino Mascaro, bleeding heavily from a crushed hand and severed finger did not get urgent medical attention. On December 12 at 5.00 pm, a container crushed Pino Mascaro’s hand while he was unlocking a twist top. Bleeding heavily he cried out for help to workmate Shaun Harry who was lashing nearby.

What followed would be best described as a comedy of errors had it not almost ended in tragedy. Shaun tried to get his injured mate to first aid but the ute wouldn’t start. He called on the job supervisor for an ambulance. The supervisor questioned the severity of the injury and refused. So Shaun got in a van and drove Pino to the first aid station, run by a private contractor. They called 000 for an ambulance, but it had trouble with directions and got lost. Another employee arrived with Nino’s severed finger. First aid put it on ice only to be told by 000 that was not the right thing to do. The ambulance took 12 minutes to arrive.

Meanwhile workers were directed to take photos of the accident scene.But by this time a call had gone through to the union. Dave Schleibs, deputy branch secretary was on the phone to management voicing members’ concerns about the lack of safety protocols. Crane operator Murray Costello would not return to the crane as directed by the supervisor. He was too affected by the injury to continue working.

By this time the union had got management in and the workers in the immediate area were stood down until WorkCover did an inspection. Everyone involved in the incident was interviewed by Lisa Pitt, the WorkCover Coordinator at DPW and were offered counselling. But there were not enough cab charges for them to return home. Some shared cabs and Lisa herself had to drop one employee home. The following midnight, day and afternoon shifts worked as normal.

But by Sunday December 13, rumours and reports about the mishandling of the incident circulated on the wharves and the union was again called in. What’s more the supervisor who was on duty the night of the accident was back on that shift. Members expressed concerns about the imminent risk to their health and safety. They refused to start work until they were fully satisfied that procedures were in place in the event of an injury.

The delegate reported the members’ views back to the supervisor and on the union’s request management met with the workers to hear their concerns first hand. Management agreed to a level 3 first aid officer available at all times in the gatehouse, new protocols and to address the supervisor. Satisfied, the members voted to return to work. Meanwhile attempts to re-attach Pino’s finger in hospital were unsuccessful.

STOPWORK OVER
ASBESTOS EXPOSURE

The Maritime Union of Australia is demanding an inquiry after workers were exposed to asbestos while working on the $43 billion Gorgon project on Barrow Island in WA. MUA members who have been shifting the asbestos are refusing to return to work the cargo until their safety is guaranteed. Branch Secretary Chris Cain says some workers were undergoing blood tests and x-rays. "There's a letter going off not only to Chevron but also to the government asking for an inquiry,” he said. “It’s going to WorkSafe as well to do their investigations.” "I've come out of a mass meeting with my members and they're very, very distraught."

The WA Branch has reported unsafe shipments of asbestos to WorkSafe and alerted other unions on the island after tests confirmed asbestos was being shipped and stevedored without safety precautions.Both ships’ crew and waterside workers have been exposed to the deadly dust. MUA organiser Noel Nielsen reported that drums containing asbestos were shipped from Barrow to Dampier using vessels Bhagwan Mover, Malu Explorer and Kararwain October. The crew of Malu Explorer was told that palletised 200-litre drums containing ACM would be loaded for return to the mainland. They were not provided with training, PPE or instructions.

The crew refused to load because drums were not securely banded, pallets were in poor condition and several drum lids and clamps were not secure.Shipments resumed once the problems were fixed. But when Mermaid’s RoRo were required to handle pallets there were no warning labels on the outside of drums and it was left to the crew of the Malu Explorer to warn their comrades that the pallets contained asbestos. Mermaid’s crew observed debris and dirt on top of the drums and pallets and questioned management but shipments continued.

Samples were provided to KJV safety manager Harry Callahan for analysis. But it was not until January 6 that workers were advised at a pre-start meeting that the sample was positive. The union is concerned the vessels have been contaminated, the crews exposed and all persons onshore who were working with or in the vicinity of the pallets have experienced some level of exposure. A spokeswoman for Chevron says an investigation into the asbestos has begun. She says asbestos used in pipes and fences was buried when oil fields were first developed about 40 years ago.

OFFSHORE TIME BOMB

People are being picked up with no tickets to drive cranes and fishing vessels are being used to transport equipment to offshore LNG developments in WA in breach of safety regulations, according to WA Branch Secretary Chris Cain. “We are going to have a death,” he told National Council in November. “It’s a time bomb, an absolute disgrace.”

MISDECLARED CARGO PUTS LIVES AT RISK

Shippers continue to put lives at risk by providing incorrect information about the weight of cargo, despite intensive efforts by lines to spell out the dangers of overloading containers, LloydsList reports.

An investigation by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch found that the top containers in seven of nine stacks, which were shown on the loading plan as empty, actually had contents weighing between 15 and 30 tonnes in one recent accident. Maersk Line is now developing new software to help identify overloaded boxes using an alert system. Meanwhile terminal operators frequently ignore overloaded containers rather than disrupt cargo-handling operations, industry sources claim.