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New Conviction For Death Shows Health And Safety Crisis In The Waterfront Industry

The Maritime Union says there is a health and safety crisis in the waterfront industry, after the conviction of a stevedoring employer whose negligence led to the death of a young woman employee.

Shannon Brooke Rangihuna-Kemp, 29, an ISO Limited stevedore worker at Eastland Port in Gisborne, died from crush injuries after she was hit by a log that fell from a trailer load she was about to scan in a “tally lane” on 8 October 2018.

ISO Limited was convicted of exposing an individual to risk of harm and illness and ordered to undertake significant health and safety improvements last week in the Gisborne District Court.

Harrowing statements were made to the Court by family members whose lives had been shattered by the death of a loved daughter and mother.

Maritime Union National Secretary Craig Harrison says that he has no faith that the outcome of the case would stop more deaths happening.

“Preventable deaths and injuries occur, convictions happen, the employer gets told off in court and makes some temporary changes, they are absorbed as a business cost, and then the old speed ups and bad practices come back, and then another death.”

Mr Harrison says until corporate manslaughter is used to put individual responsibility on managers and Boards, then nothing would change.

He says the Union message is simple: “Kill a worker, go to jail.”

The Maritime Union had already been shaken by the deaths of two workers at the Ports of Auckland since 2018, but the health and safety issue needed a national response with the involvement of the industry stakeholders.

Mr Harrison says these tragedies were happening to young, working class people and it seemed their lives did not have the same value as others.

Rather than being fined, ISO had been ordered through a Court Ordered Enforceable Undertaking (COEU) to improve health and safety to a cost of $800,000.

Mr Harrison says while the Union is not opposed in concept to COEU in this case it was not an appropriately severe sentence.

He says ISO had killed a worker through negligence and was now simply being made to comply with health and safety laws: the same laws that would have protected Ms Rangihuna-Kemp if they had been adhered to.

Mr Harrison says it was staggering the company's lawyers had argued the company should be discharged without conviction, and had suggested a $20,000 reparation payment to the family was appropriate, on the basis some payments had already been made.

It was an indication of the real attitude of ISO management, he says.

The Court had ordered a payment of $100,000 to the family for emotional harm.

A Worksafe investigation uncovered numerous routine hazards in the work area where the death occurred that ISO Ltd already knew about, but had failed to take steps to fix.

Worksafe stated the death was the result of systemic fundamental failure to protect workers, less than a year after ISO Ltd was previously subjected to an enforceable order in relation to an incident in which a portside worker fell from a ladder on a ship in the Port of Tauranga.

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