Employee falls to death at Ports of Auckland

A national inquiry on port safety is being urged following the incident

Employee falls to death at Ports of Auckland

An employee of a private stevedoring company in New Zealand fell to their death in a workplace accident on Tuesday, according to the Maritime Union of New Zealand.

The union said the employee died while working at the Ports of Auckland, after falling from a height on a Singaporean-flagged containership.

Radio New Zealand reported that the Ports of Auckland confirmed to them a "serious incident" on Tuesday morning, where police said the victim died and emergency services are at the scene.

A statement from the Ports of Auckland said work on the containership stopped immediately, while an official investigation had begun.

"This is tragic news and a shock to us all. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family, friends and colleagues of the person involved," read the statement quoted by Radio New Zealand.

Stuff, meanwhile, in a separate report said the Maritime NZ was already notified of the incident and would be leading the investigation.

Ports of Auckland said in its statement that it will support the probe, as well as the "implementation of any recommended corrective actions."

The Maritime Union of New Zealand also said it is willing to participate where possible in the investigation.

Read more: How better employee monitoring enhances workplace safety

'National inquiry' called

Craig Harrison, national secretary of the Maritime Union of New Zealand, described the incident as a "tragedy that will be devastating for family and workmates."

According to Harrison, a national inquiry into port safety must be carried out after several deaths and injuries in New Zealand's ports in recent years.

"I think the government should take the lead. We've got Maritime New Zealand who would be the logical lead on it but a partnership probably with Maritime New Zealand and WorkSafe," said Harrison in a television interview with NewsHub.

"There's some stuff that's been going on slowly in the background, but I think that needs to be elevated and given the resources it needs to sort it out."

Harrison added that there is a lacking on "conventional standards" when it comes to ports, where there is a lot of pressure and hours being worked due to freight growing over the past years.

"We've always relied on a lot of overtime being worked in the industry to the detriment of health and safety and I think that's what's needed as some sort of regulatory overview or control," he said.

This is the fourth death linked to the Ports of Auckland since 2017, according to Radio New Zealand's report, and Harrison said the tragedy reinforces the dangers faced by port workers every day.

Last year, Stuff reported that an independent review from the Construction Health and Safety New Zealand said that serious health and safety changes were necessary at the Ports of Auckland.

The review said that "systemic" problems at the ports in terms of health and safety aspects were found, with an opportunity for "significant improvement."

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