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Lyttelton Port Company ordered to pay $138,000 over worker’s death
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Lyttelton Port Company ordered to pay $138,000 over worker’s death

6 August 15

The family of port worker Bradley Fletcher will receive $75,000 in court-ordered reparation from the Lyttelton Port Company, which has today also been fined $63,000 over his death.

Mr Fletcher was killed in August 2014 after the scissor lift he was using toppled over, while he was trying to jump-start a straddle carrier. He was thrown from the lift, hitting a near-by shipping container before falling to the ground. He suffered fatal head and brain injuries.

A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found multiple failures by the Port Company contributed to Mr Fletcher’s death, including poor maintenance, a lack of training and inadequate systems for identifying faulty machinery and returning it to safe use.

The investigation found:

  • One of the scissor-lift’s four stabilising ‘out-rigger’ legs failed to deploy. The out-rigger legs were found to be clogged with coal dust.
  • The scissor-lift’s rear axle was also jammed, overriding the machine’s safety systems which should have prevented the platform being raised on its three remaining ‘out-riggers’.
  • Maintenance staff had little or no training in the use of the scissor lift. They did not know where its operation manual was and had not read it.
  • Instead of being fully tested by maintenance staff at the start of each shift (up to 21 times a week), the scissor lift was visually checked only once using a basic checklist intended for the Port’s forklifts.
  • Despite the straddle carrier being designed to be safely jump-started from the ground, the Port Company failed to consider the inherent risks created when trying to jump-start the machine at height. It had also failed to contact the manufacturer when, on a number of occasions, it had been unable to jump-start straddle carriers from the ground.

Lyttelton Port Company pleaded guilty to one charge under Sections 5 and 50 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure Mr Fletcher’s safety while at work. The company was sentenced today at the Christchurch District Court.

WorkSafe’s General Manager High Hazards and Specialist Services, Brett Murray, says Brad Fletcher’s death was a tragedy for his family, co-workers and the Lyttelton community.

“A proper hazard identification system would have highlighted the need to find a safer way to jump start the straddle carriers instead of using a scissor-lift to hoist Mr Fletcher and nearly 200 kilograms of batteries almost 10 metres into the air. In at least one other New Zealand port, a second straddle carrier is brought alongside for any jump-starting, minimising the risk of working at height.

“Proper cleaning, testing and maintenance of equipment such as scissor-lifts should be standard procedure. Any machinery or plant that might put people in harm’s way needs to be looked after – and staff need to be trained to use it safely.

“Brad Fletcher’s death could have been avoided if the port had an effective safety management system in place that identified key risk areas and ensured those risks were controlled. It is to be hoped that the lessons of this case can help prevent similar tragedies in the future,” says Brett Murray.

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