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Issue #1591      May 1, 2013

Offshore deaths soar

Deaths and serious incidents in the maritime and offshore facility sectors in Australian waters have skyrocketed in recent years, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report released last week, highlighting the urgent need for action by the federal government.

The ATSB’s report found:

  • Between 2005 and 2012 there were 254 people killed, missing or seriously injured from reported marine occurrences;
  • In 2012, there were 154 marine safety occurrences reported to the ATSB – over 50 percent higher than the 2005 to 2012 average of 100 occurrences per annum.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said the report highlighted the urgent need for the federal government and its agencies to act to reduce the death and serious injury rates. “These figures about deaths and serious injuries in the maritime and offshore sector are not only shocking, they are a tragedy for the many families and communities who have lost loved ones,” MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

Mr Crumlin, who is also president of the International Transport Workers’ Federation said: “The fact that the majority of incidents occurred on flag-of-convenience ships demonstrates the importance of the ITF’s campaign to reform international shipping standards.

“These figures demonstrate why the MUA and its members have been campaigning hard for a robust National Stevedoring Code of Practice and for the offshore sector to be included in harmonised OHS laws.

“There is no reason why safety standards in the offshore sector should be lower than those that apply to workers on similar sites onshore.

“We urge Minister Gary Gray to urgently address this discrepancy and ensure that the Commonwealth’s policy for harmonising OHS standards across the country be realised in full by ensuring the offshore oil and gas sector isn’t covered by weaker laws.

“Wharfies are 14 times more likely than the average worker to die on the job – a rate that is higher than our troops fighting in Afghanistan. That’s why we will continue to fight for a National Code of Practice for Stevedoring workers.

“We also urge the federal government to move quickly to implement the key recommendations of the Seacare review that will improve safety standards,” Mr Crumlin said.

Meetings will be sought with the federal regulators, Seacare, AMSA and NOPSEMA, who have responsibility for safety on ships and maritime facilities, to seek to address discrepancies in regulation as soon as possible.   

Next article – AEU secures agreement in principle for schools

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