Waterfront death escalates industrial action over Stevedoring Code of Practice

The recent death of a worker who was crushed in a stevedoring accident has escalated industrial action by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) that surrounds the development of a Stevedoring Code of Practice.

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The code of practice will replace existing guidance material and contain guidance about managing hazards and new information on mooring and unmooring risks.

Safe Work Australia is currently developing a model Code of Practice for stevedoring to support the harmonised work health and safety laws. Development is being undertaken through a tripartite working group which includes representatives from stevedoring companies, stevedoring workers and regulators. It is intended that the model Code of Practice will replace the national guidance material published by Safe Work Australia in October 2009.

The national guidance material is based on the Victorian Waterfront Project Guidance released in May 2008 and comprises three booklets:

As part of the development of this model Code of Practice Safe Work Australia has reviewed the national guidance material. The Issues Paper: Review of the National Guidance Material for Working Safely on the Waterfront was released for public comment on Friday 13 July 2012 and closed Friday 10 August 2012.

Safe Work Australia has indicated that it is seeking to address poor safety performance in the stevedoring industry through the development of the new code.  They identified a number of elements that may be contributing to poor safety performance including:

  • the lack of good quality guidance for the stevedoring industry;
  • low uptake of the existing guidance by jurisdictional regulators;
  • poor compliance within the jurisdictions that have adopted existing guidance; and
  • debate within the industry on reasonably practicable solutions to eliminate or minimise stevedoring hazards and risks.

The new code of practice is part of Model Work Health and Safety Laws that have been adopted in all jurisdictions except Victoria and Western Australia.

Ongoing tensions surrounding the code were highlighted by comments published in the media.  An article in The Age noted ‘the Australian Logistics Council this week criticised the draft code, saying it should ”not go ahead at all”.  The Maritime Union of Australia on Friday called the council’s comments ”disgraceful”, showing ”just how little regard” the stevedores industry had for worker safety’.

Regardless of the ongoing debate that surrounds the development of the new code it is imperative that organisations have comprehensive safety plans and processes in place and an understanding of WHS developments in their respective sectors.

 If you would like to know more about meeting the required safety standards of your  industry, please contact Safety Services Australia today on +61 2 9634 5912  or info@safetyservices.net.au