An independent review into health and safety at Ports of Auckland following three deaths in recent years has found systemic problems with health and safety at the council-owned business.
The review, conducted by Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ), identified problems in relation to critical health and safety risk management and organisational culture relating to health and safety, Mayor Phil Goff said.
At a press conference this morning, the mayor said the question of confidence in chief executive Tony Gibson is a matter for the board.
“I don’t hire and fire the chief executive,” he said.
Goff said the board and a number of new appointees will be in no doubt as to their role in ensuring proper oversight of governance of the chief executive and management.
“If the board doesn’t carry out its role then they will be replaced,” he said.
Earlier, Goff had a stern message for the leaders who run the business.
“I have made it very clear to the chair of the ports that changes need to be made to the way the ports run and it is my expectation that he and the board will hold management accountable for these changes. Council in turn will hold the board accountable,” he said.
The review, he said, found a need for significant improvement at Ports of Auckland to ensure that its approach to health and safety reflects the level of risk inherent in port operations.
“Health and safety rules that keep people safe are not ‘a nice to have’. They are a vital component of good management in any workplace,” he said.
“When someone goes to work, they should go back home to their families and loved ones,” Goff said.
There have been three deaths at the port in recent years and a number of serious injuries.
In August last year, father-of-seven Palaamo Kalati, aged 31, a stevedore, was crushed to death by a container on a ship at the Fergusson Container Terminal.
In 2018, 23-year-old Laboom Midnight Dyer died after a straddle carrier he was driving tipped over.
In July last year, Ports of Auckland was fined $242,000 for failing to comply with health and safety duties after a pilot boat accidentally struck and killed ocean swimmer Leslie Gelberger in 2017.
“The reviewers make a number of recommendations to improve health and safety at the Ports, including new requirements for the Ports chief executive to prioritise safety over productivity and profitability, improve trust and communication between management and staff, and for a new health and safety manager to report directly to the chief executive and the Board,” Goff said.
Under the Port Companies Act the council does not have oversight of operational matters at Ports of Auckland.
However, following the deaths and serious accidents in recent years, Goff determined in conjunction with council chief executive Jim Stabback that an independent review of safety at the Ports was required.
The inquiry was led by CHASNZ chairman Roger McRae.
Board chairman Bill Osborne acknowledged that the culture of health and safety at the Ports has been poor and has fully committed the board to implement the recommendations of the review.
“I now expect Ports of Auckland to implement these recommendations without delay and more importantly to hold management to account on monitoring and compliance.
“Council will require from Ports a regular report on changes made and progress in implementing the recommendations in the review. These reports will be made public and will ensure the Ports are accountable for improving health and safety in their operations,” Osborne said.
In January, board chairwoman Liz Coutts, named Deloitte Top 200 chairperson of the year for 2020, stepped down from the job after 10 years on the board.
She told the council shareholder of her intention to retire last year as she wanted to reduce the number of chair roles she held.
Former All Black Bill Osborne replaced her.
Ports of Auckland has also been in the spotlight for low productivity during an upsurge in global container shipping, fuelling supply chain congestion throughout the country
It’s also turned in disappointing financial results and dividend returns to Auckland ratepayers and its capital intensive container terminal automation project – started in 2016 and yet to be fully implemented – is on Goff’s radar.
Key recommendations of the review include:
• Requirements for the POAL chief executive to prioritise safety over productivity and profitability, improve communication and engagement with staff on health and safety, help change risk behaviours, and resource corrective actions.
• An increased focus on safety for Ports leaders and management.
• Improving the relationship with the Maritime Union of NZ.
• Improving trust and engagement between executive management and the frontline workforce about health and safety expectations.
• Appointing a health and safety leader at POAL, reporting to the chief executive, to reset the Port’s approach to health and safety.
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