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Two Deaths in Six Days Sparks Review into Industry Safety

Published May 12, 2022 (last updated on June 14, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

The New Zealand (NZ) Government have ordered reviews into Shipping and Port Operations, after the deaths of two men from the industry just six days apart raised alarms about national safety practices.

The latest death occurred at Lyttelton Port on ANZAC Day (Monday 25 April), when stevedore, Don Grant was fatally crushed, whilst loading a coal ship for export at Cashin Quay.

The National Secretary of the Maritime Union, Craig Harrison, confirmed the man in his 70’s was getting ready to retire.

Grant has been remembered by family members as “a devoted husband, an incredible father, a loving and involved grandfather, and friend to many.”

Six days earlier, on Tuesday April 19, emergency services were called to the Ports of Auckland (PoA), just prior to 9:30am. It was reported a man had fallen from a container to his death.

NZ media confirmed the identity of the deceased as, 26-year-old father, Atiroa Tuaiti.

The man’s father was working at the same location at the time of the tragedy. Tuaiti leaves behind two young children, his youngest just six months old.

The NZ Herald reported distraught workers performed a haka which echoed through the Ports, as the young father’s body was transported from the scene.

Investigations are underway into both men’s deaths.

“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

New Zealand media have reported four deaths involving the Port industry since 2017.

Council of Trade Unions president, Richard Wagstaff said Don Grant’s death at Lyttelton Port was “a tragedy and served to reinforce calls for an inquiry, from which national standards could be developed.”

A report ordered by PoA owners, Auckland Council released in March 2021, primarily placed blame on Port management.

The report recommended that the chief executive “prioritise safety over productivity and profitability.”

Don Grant’s family, friends and workmates were devastated by his disastrous death.

“While Don loved his job at Lyttelton Port, all workers need to know that they are safe and will be coming home from work to their loved ones. We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.” A statement released by Grant’s family said.

A spokesperson for the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) confirmed investigators attended the Lyttleton Port Company in Christchurch after the fatal incident.

Maritime Union national secretary Craig Harrison (a former PoA stevedore for over 20 years), believed both ports wanted to contribute positively to an inquiry. However, he said, “it was unfortunate it had it taken two tragedies in six days to get significant action.”

Experts Say Effective Health & Safety Management Systems are Required

Health and Safety experts are saying more needs to be done to ensure protocols are current and followed by employees whilst also being enforced by leadership.

“A timely reminder that no matter what procedures you may have in place, businesses must understand that their health and safety journey, means continuous risk assessments and ongoing monitoring of its processes and people, ongoing training and collaboration and consultation between workers and the company.” Peninsula Head of Health and Safety, Felix Yeung said.

Yeung continued to emphasise the importance of maintaining substantial safety measures.

“An effective Health and Safety management system needs to be practical and add values to the business, not just ticking boxes.” Yeung said.

Yeung ended his statement with a stark reminder, that workplace fatalities have been a tragic reality for the families of two fathers from New Zealand recently.

“The consequence of a fatality is far reaching and sends shock waves through the health and safety community, however, all too often businesses and Govt are conducting reviews after the fact.” Yeung said. “A more proactive approach must be taken, particularly in high risks industries. Every accident is avoidable. Every life must mean something.” Yeung concluded.

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