Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
460. They said that about accidents across the
whole of the industry, they did not say that about the ports,
(Mr Compton) They said that about industry generally.
We say that about our industry because we run a voluntary arrangement
with our members, a voluntary scheme whereby they are invited
to send to us on a annual basis details of their accidents and
we collate those to get a national set of figures. They are telling
us that we have reached a sort of plateau.
461. That is just taking, if you like, the more
responsible employers that belong to your organisation rather
than the freeloaders. What proportion of the industry are freeloaders
who belong to neither of your organisations?
(Mr Compton) No one knows the number, we have heard
estimates. In PSO membership the member companies employ 20,000
people. We know that there are 150 to 200 probably very small
cargo handling companies, stevedore companies, they are not big,
they are very small and they are part of the industry and they
supply a service and they are not in our membership. Indeed, they
tend not to be in anybody's membership, they tend to be outside
of circle, that is the term we use. One of the challenges that
we have had as an industry is to not only tell them what is going
on and try to get them involved but really to try and get them
engaged. As far as this NPE code was concerned it was deliberately
written so that the port authority in each area who would knows
these companies, because they are working in their port, would
write to them, tell them about the code and when it was being
developed, so they had the opportunity to hear about it and comment
on it if they wanted to and secondly, when it was adopted to send
it to them and seek at a senior level a commitment to apply that
code. That is what the code actually says. Another part of our
survey would be to see just how effective that has been.
462. They caused you a bit of unfair competition,
(Mr Compton) They could. It is certainly possible
to get commercial advantage out of not applying safety.
463. If you do not comply on safety regulations
you are unfair competition compared with somebody else.
(Mr Jones) Can I confirm really that on our database,
which is probably very similar to Mr Compton's there are some
250 or so organisations who are not ports but other companies
that work in the ports, and just over 200 of those are not members
of our organisation and I do not believe they are members of his
organisation either. They are the ones that we are currently trying
to address and trying to get the message through to in order that
they can raise their skill levels, get themselves qualified in
order to confirm that they are competent people to work in our
464. Can I just follow on with that thought,
the European Commission has announced that a new Directive on
Access to Port Services, the provision of support services at
the ports, is to be introduced, which will intensify the competition.
What impact will that Directive have on port services on safety,
welfare and training within the port itself?
(Mr Sloggett) I think it is very difficult to say
at this stage because the Directive is so new and I think we really
have yet to get to grips with it. It does go out of its way to
say that the authority which controls access to ports will have
the right, and presumably the duty, to impose conditions on access
and to address issues of safety. It will not be free access to
port services but it will be a controlled access of presumably
competent people. On the other hand, it is quite clear that the
Directive is about increasing competition. It will be up to port
authorities to find the balance between setting safety conditions
and meeting the competitive terms.
465. How would you implement that in your port,
(Mr Sloggett) The Directive comes in two parts, if
the port authority limits access then it must have concessions
according to the conditions laid down in the Directive. If it
does not limit access then it does not actually have to meet those
tendering conditions. In my port I hope very much that in the
areas indicated in the Directive we will not have to limit access
and things will remain much as they are, so that, for example,
if you wish to start a towing service in Dover you can do so now
if you want to, we do not limit access.
466. Has the industry made representations to
the Government about this Directive?
(Mr Sloggett) As I understand it the British Ports
Association were at the lunch that was mentioned to you that took
place with Mr Prescott today. We do expect the DETR to be undertaking
a formal of consultation exercise on this Directive. I think we
are, to be honest, still trying to come to grips with what this
is going to mean in our ports, because so it is so new.
467. Sorry to personalise this, because of the
size and importance of your port you do not have any bar on commercial
access, if there is room and if the facilities are available at
the times needed?
(Mr Sloggett) Generally that is true. Certainly in
Dover it is true for a number of services, although not for all.
The port authority moors ferries in Dover and mooring is one of
the services that is referred to in the Ports Services Directive.
Although at the moment we allow free access for towing we do not
allow free access for mooring. We will have to come to grips with
the Directive in that area.
468. In a general sense presumably decisions
that you take as an authority in relation to the port are governed
by your commercial interests, are they?
(Mr Sloggett) We have our commercial interests amongst
others of which safety is obviously an important one.
469. Has there ever been a suggestion you are
(Mr Sloggett) There have been times. There was a time
at Dover when we checked in the passenger traffic going on the
ferries, which we no longer do because the ferry operators wanted
to self-handle that traffic, which is another term used in the
Directive. Over the years there have been negotiations, between
us and our customers usually, about who should do what, that is
common in most ports.
470. What I am really trying to get at is, if
you were asked honestly just to give a general opinion would you
say that major ports in this country complied with the overall
terms of the Directive or not?
(Mr Sloggett) No, I do not think I could do that because,
as I think you heard earlier on, Felixstowe is a vertically integrated
port, it provides all of the services itself, it handles all of
the containers. Another port like that is Bristol, two major ports
in really quite constrained circumstances.
471. Both of them are getting competition from
either side of them.
(Mr Sloggett) Certainly. They feel very threatened
by the Directive, whereas London, which is on a river, and where
land is not a problem and where people can have terminals much
as they like, I do not think it is going to have a problem with
472. I wanted to refer back to Mr Compton's
remarks, you implied there were quite a number of small ports
that were either escaping or avoiding the health and safety requirement
and somehow or another they were not as well protected. Was that
meaning of what you said?
(Mr Compton) No, it was not small ports. There are
quite a reasonable number of small companies who handle cargo
and employ people to carry out that activity. I am not saying
that they are not complying with safety laws either because we
do not know whether they are or not, the enforcement of the safety
rules is for the Health and Safety Executive and their inspectors.
They are outside the circle of the organised part of the industry,
which is the major part of the industry. We do not know whether
they are or whether they are not. There was a dreadful accident
that has really given point to all this concern, and that was
in a company like that, outside the circle, and operating on its
own land, for example. There are quite a lotBob Jones suggested
200, I said 150 to 200, it is around that numbervery small
companies but not ports.
(Mr Braithwaite) One of the components of the safety
step-change initiative that we are currently trying to address
forward is trying to bring these smaller companies more within
the circle, as Mike Compton describes. There are cases of good
practice in some ports where through things like liaison groups
they are engaging these small companies. It is wrong to assert
that these small companies are not acting safely, many of them
do work safely, they have to comply with the regulations. We certainly
feel they should be more engaged and there should be more dialogue
in that respect. In that area it is not only important what we
as a port industry are doing, there is an important part to be
played by the Health and Safety Executive in that because they
are the enforcing regulatory authority.
473. I do not want to go into that because we
shall be talking to them.
(Mr Braithwaite) Could I, maybe, just make one point
on health and safety, and it really relates back to what we are
trying to do within industry in terms of an initiative and in
responding to the Government's strategy statement, part of that
is continuing to work in partnership with the Health and Safety
Executive and also the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It is important,
therefore, that they are given the resources to do that. I am
assuming that since the Government have launched the revitalisation
statement they will be given the resources, that is certainly
what we are looking for in terms of the partnership.
474. Can I ask one other question, it says here
in your submission, the wording is interesting, "An accident
rate of about 30 per cent of what it was 30 years ago". Does
that mean that there has been a very great improvement, a very
great improvement? 30 per cent now means it is 70 per cent better,
or do I have it wrong?
(Mr Compton) The figure for 1999, which was the year
that most of the statistics we are dealing with at the moment
refer to, was almost exactly 30 per cent, these are the figures
that we have, of the figure that applied in 1969. If we take the
30 years back from where we are, to 1971, the figure was over
one in four dock workers suffered a serious personal injury in
that year, which was an awful figure frankly, an awful record.
475. What is the 30 per cent of?
(Mr Compton) It was 30 per cent of an accident rate.
The accident rate was at a level in 1969, and 30 per cent of that
was the accident rate in 1999, so it is a reduction.
476. What serious accidents are we talking about
(Mr Compton) It is all based on the accidents that
have to be reported within law to the Health and Safety Executive,
which essentially are basically if you are injured and you are
away from work for more than three working days, that is the basic
level. Beyond that they are reportable, they might not be serious,
they might be serious, they could be fatal. All of those are lumped
477. It is one in 12 instead of one in four?
(Mr Compton) Something of that order, yes.
(Mr Braithwaite) Can I add to that, because I think
it is relevant in terms of what is happening now, these were the
accident figures in the dock industry, and I expect mirrored in
other industries at that time at the end of the 60s and the beginning
of the 70s. As a result of that in 1974 we had the Health and
Safety at Work Act to try and push safety forward significantly.
I think it has done so and the figures have been demonstrated
in our industries. Where we are at at the moment is trying to
move that whole thing forward.
478. Gentlemen, you have been very tolerant,
I want to ask you one or two things before I allow you to escape.
What progress have you made in your nationally recognised qualifications
for port workers?
(Mr Jones) Over the last few years we have developed
NVQs for all of the operative levels, that is the people who are
doing cargo handling, the people who are involved in marine operations
and for those involved with passenger handling.
479. Which is what, all of the employers, the
employers plus the unions?
(Mr Jones) Yes. The work is being coordinated by BPIT
but the actual expertise for writing standards has come from the