Dock worker’s death sparks strike

The Maritime Union of Australia shut down the 27 POAGS docks at ports around Australia from midday on Wednesday and said the industry was in crisis, with three dock workers killed on the job this year.

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The 40-year-old was killed at Appleton Dock in Port Melbourne after a three-tonne steel beam fell on top of him around 9.15am (AEST) on Wednesday.

Faulty hydraulic jack

The father of two from Dingley Village was rigging a steel drum to a lifting device with the steel beam. Worksafe Victoria inspectors believe the hydraulic jacks failed to operate in unison, causing the beam to fall on the worker.

The MUA says this is the second death at POAGS wharves this year and the third fatality at Appleton Dock in seven years. POAGS is a major supplier of stevedoring and port management services.

“The industry is in crisis,” MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said in a statement on Wednesday.

Another worker died in March

“We said last time we lost a worker in March we needed urgent action to overcome the lack of safety on the job.”

Mr Crumlin said there was a yawning gap and inadequacies in state and federal safety legislation covering the nation’s wharves.

“The industry’s safety record is appalling,” he said.

“We need national legislation. We need regulation, not guidelines. We need the federal government to intervene. The industry has failed to regulate itself and urgent intervention is now required.”

Lobbying for national regulations

Since the deaths of two dock workers earlier this year, the MUA has lobbied the government for national regulations and called for stronger terms of reference for the Safe Work Australia Stevedoring Temporary Advisory Group.

“Wharfies are constantly reminded about the importance of their work to the national interest, but the national interest doesn’t seem to rate the importance of their lives. It’s a disgrace,” Mr Crumlin said.

A POAGS spokesman said safety at its sites was “consistent with national industry standards and complies with all relevant legislative requirements”.

POAGS said its safety systems “are the best that we’re aware of”.

POAGS said the stoppage at its 27 ports would delay the loading and unloading of 15 vessels.

WorkSafe Victoria is investigating the accident.