Warren Smith's Letter To The Editor, Australian Financial Review

Assistant Secretary Warren Smith submitted a letter to the Australian Financial Review, published under the headline "Logistics Council out of step on safety laws".

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[Picture: Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith]

The Australian Logistics Council’s latest claims (“Safety go-slow pleas a paradox”, AFR, March 26) regarding the cost and safety implications of the changes reveal that it either doesn’t understand the current legislative framework, or some of its members are failing to follow existing laws.

The ALC claims the code will add to labour costs because it will require “an extra safety official on every crane serving every ship”. What they don’t say is that this position, known in the industry as a hatchman, is already a legal requirement under current maritime law. That means every ALC member, including these big stevedores, should already be employing these staff and if they are not, they are breaching existing safety laws.

Even more outrageous is the ALC’s claim that the existence of the hatchman – who acts as the eyes and ears of the crane driver – could lead to safety outcomes being reduced.

Every crane operation in Australia is required to have a similar position because of the vision restrictions in a crane cabin and it is regarded as a primary safety position on docks around the world. With wharfies still 14 times more likely to die at work than other Australians, improvements to safety on our docks are a moral imperative.

The implementation of the draft national stevedoring code of practice has successfully simplified, clarified and harmonised existing health and safety provisions.

Warren Smith 
Maritime Union of Australia 
Sydney, NSW