Examination of Witnesses (Questions 486
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
486. Good evening, gentlemen, I apologise for
keeping you waiting. Can you identify yourselves?
(Mr Henderson) I am Graeme Henderson, Head of Marine
(Mr Starling) I am Nick Starling, Director of Safety
(Mr Meldrum) I am Bob Meldrum, Head of the Docks Unit,
the Health and Safety Executive, Fields Operation Directorate.
487. Did any of you want to make some general
remarks? (Mr Starling) Not particularly. We sent you
a memorandum and we also sent you a report of a recent conference
on "Safer Docks", which was held last week.
488. Do you want to tell us what you think from
your perspective are the greatest challenges facing the ports?
(Mr Starling) From our perspective the greatest challenge
is the fact that there is an unacceptable high rate of death and
injury in the ports industry. It is the most dangerous land based
industry in the United Kingdom. It has a rate of nearly 3,000
accidents per 100,000 workers, the exact figure is 2,933. If I
can use one or two comparators, that figure is higher than coal
mining and quarrying, which is 2,732; it is higher than construction
which, as you are probably aware, is an area of major concern
to HSE, where the figure is 1,290. The provisional figures for
last year showed that there were three deaths, there were 115
major injury accidents and 591 three day accidents. I believe,
subject to correction, there has already been one death this year.
489. Could I just ask for clarification on that,
Mr Starling, I am looking at the Maritime Statistics Branch of
the DETR Supplementary Memorandum dated March 2001, "There
are no precise statistics available on accidents occurring at
ports". You have just given us some statistics, how precise
(Mr Starling) In a moment I will ask my colleague
to elaborate on those. We think that statistics can obviously
be refined and refined and we are aware there are some difficulties
in assessing the number of people employed in ports.
490. Forgive me for interrupting, refined and
refined, I ought to, in fairness, quote the preamble to the paragraph,
it points to number of area statistical information that is available
that is either ambiguous or incomplete, not refined.
Chairman: What number paragraph is that?
491. It is not numbered, it is on the first
page and it is headed, "Gaps in Information".
(Mr Starling) My answer to that would be that the
statistics are good enough for us to know how bad they are in
terms of health and safety, they would have to change fairly dramatically
to move away from that.
492. It then goes on to say, "The information
collected by HSE is based on a secondary analysis of reports classified
under standard industrial classification 63220 (unsupported water
transport activities)". What does that mean? What does "secondary"
(Mr Meldrum) I will try and explain them to you. 63220
covers supporting services to water transport, and those are the
figures that my colleague has just quoted to you, those are accidents
reported to HSE from firms who are allocated to that standard
industrial classification. That does include other industries,
small bits and pieces. We did an analysis of those accidents for
1999/2000 and we found that 7 per cent were not port related.
We believe that the vast majority of those accidents are port
related. That does not mean that those accidents even then include
all of the accidents that occur in ports. There are accidents
to visitors which come under other classifications. We do have
other ways of identifying those. You cannot put those into rates
because we have no way of working out how many of those people
in other industries are in ports and for how long they are in
ports. What we can do is use the annual employment survey data
published by the Office of National Statistics for SIC 63220 and,
therefore, we use those figures to prepare the rates.
493. Would you also agree with the DETR that
say that although industry publications provide information on
the facilities available at some ports it is difficult to extract
this information meaningfully or consistently when comparing between
ports. In other words, they are saying that for the physical attribute
of the port, which presumably has some possible influence on the
safety environment, there is just not any meaningful information
available. Would you agree with that assertion?
(Mr Meldrum) I am not quite sure what the writer is
getting at. It is difficult to compare ports anyway, in that in
each individual port the number of accidents are not terribly
great, so there is doubt as to whether you are looking at a natural
variation or whether you are looking at something that is statistically
significant. The other thing is that different ports have different
types of operation. If I look at one which is highly automated
as opposed to one that uses break bulk and lo-lo (load-on, load-off)
then I would expect a different accident rate anyway.
494. The same document says, "No precise
data exists on employment reports". Would you agree with
(Mr Meldrum) The employment data that we use is provided
by the Office of National Statistics. I cannot tell you exactly
how they collect that.
495. The suggestions that we have received in
evidence are that two aspects of industry may need to be more
scrutinised in terms of health and safety than others, one is
casualisation, casual labour and two is the smaller ports. What
would your comments be from a health and safety perspective on
both those aspects of the industry?
(Mr Starling) I think that the use of casual labour
contractors coming in is a concern. There are areas where there
is lack of training and lack of safety management and the lack
of control of contractors can be an issue. Those are areas that
are important to concentrate on. In terms of differences between
larger and smaller ports, they all have their own different risks
and hazards in them.
Chairman: Before you pass on to Mr Meldrum,
is it completely different in the port industry, I apologise I
ought to know this, in legal terms from something like the railway,
because after all it does not matter whether Railtrack has a dozen
different contractors because legally the responsibility resides
with them and, therefore, if the contractor does not operate safely
it does not matter how many layers they are down the line Railtrack
still have the legal responsibility. You get the impression that
Mr Stevenson: I was coming to that.
Chairman: Mr Stevenson was going to ask you
Mr Stevenson: May I?
Chairman: Please do.
496. Sorry to interrupt you Mrs Dunwoody. You
do seem, if I may say so, a little ambiguous in your answer, I
hope that is not being unfair, that may be my fault, how does
the HSE monitor the situation regarding health and safety as it
effects casual labour? How do you monitor the application in smaller
(Mr Meldrum) We have inspectors who visit ports. In
the last complete year our inspectors did 635 separate visits,
that is not necessarily to 635 different ports. You might go to
a single port and visit half a dozen contractors or users of the
port. When they go there they look at compliance and, if necessary,
issue improvement or prohibition notices, or if necessary prosecute.
They may go there to investigate an accident. Something like 343
of those visits were inspections as opposed to investigations.
497. How many notices were issued?
(Mr Meldrum) 35.
498. Out of your 635.
(Mr Meldrum) That does not mean that no action was
taken on the others.
499. 30 notices, on how many occasions did they
actually stop the job?
(Mr Meldrum) I do not have a note of how many were
prohibition notices, inspectors may have got the job stopped on
an informal basis, and I have no way of telling that.