Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
500. You have statutory duties and obligations
that government has put on you, we heard earlier the fact that
it was not possible to get some statistics, you could enforce
that, could you not, or does it require further statutory powers?
(Mr Henderson) There are certain regulations which
do require the reporting of accidents and also dangerous occurrences.
It is fair to say, we have to say, across all industry there is
a degree of under reporting. Certainly if HSE come across the
situation where a serious accident has not been reported then
in addition to prosecuting the company concerned for the circumstance
of that accident you can also prosecute them for the non-reporting
of the accident in the first place. That is something that we
adopt a very strong approach to.
501. Is that just the company concerned or is
it, as I am asking you, further back down the line? What controls
do you have over a port where people are being employed by contractors
and the contractors are not complying with the law?
(Mr Henderson) The law applies to all of the companies,
they apply to the port owner or operator, as well as all of the
502. When you move in and you find that somebody
has either not reported an accident, which by definition qualifies
for reporting, or there has been some instance which is manifestly
unsafe, do you just deal with that contractor or do you go further
back down the line and say that you too have a responsibility?
(Mr Meldrum) Can I say, this has been one of the most
important areas, because it is not like on a construction site
or British Rail where the contractors are actually working for
the person who owns the port
503. I understand that.
(Mr Meldrum)quite a lot of them are hired by
Chairman: That is precisely what concerns this
504. Casualisation has brought that about.
(Mr Meldrum) It is not as simple as that. If I take
a typical port, this is not the case for all ports, I will provide
common facilities, I will take fees when ships come in, I will
organise mooring, but quite often I do not load and unload the
ship, the stevedore will do that. Sometimes a stevedore does it
with their own work force, and sometimes when they are short of
staff or they have a peak of work they pull in people from elsewhere.
A lot of the casualisation is in that area, when you pull in people
to meet your peak demands. Some people have a very small residual
work force and bring in a lot, some people have a lot of their
own and bring in a few.
505. Now I understand the work pattern, can
I ask you again, when you are confronted with a situation where
someone has either been involved in an accident or has, for some
reason, been involved in an incident which needs reporting do
you just deal with that contractor or do you go further back and
ask the people in charge of the port? Given what you are saying,
I hear you clearly, I hear you clearly, but I want to know how
far back the responsibility lies and what effort you put into
finding out whether that port is operating safely?
(Mr Meldrum) We do put effort into whether our port
is operating safely. Our instructions to inspectors are to go
up the chain. It is not always possible to prove that the port
has a legal responsibility, because in some cases it does not
have under the legislation, although there are a lot of duties
to co-operate with others, and there are a lot of duties on people
who provide premises. We do go up the chain as far as we possibly
can. We are encouraging ports to take a much greater interest
in what is going on in that port. That is one of our priority
506. How many inspectors do you have that are
solely responsible for working in the docks?
(Mr Meldrum) None of our inspectors deal with ports
solely, they cover a range of industries, probably something like
20 or 30 inspectors are regularly dealing with ports, probably
up to 70 could deal with a port. We have very few front line inspectors
who deal with a specific industry, except for railways and the
507. And mines?
(Mr Meldrum) Mines are dealt with specifically.
508. This is an industry where you yourself
have said there is a greater casualty rate than even the mines.
(Mr Meldrum) The risks it presents are no different
from the risks in other parts of industry, they may be greater
but falls from heights, handling injuries and handling hazards
are not that different from those in other industries. An inspector
who is an experienced inspector should be able to cope and we
would expect them to cope. We provide training courses for all
those who go on to ports for the first time.
509. Can I take you back to my first question
in terms of statutory duty. Do you believe there is need for any
further responsibility to be given to you? Some of the statistics
that seem to be extrapolated did not give me the impression or
any confidence to believe many of the statistics. Do you have
statutory obligations on you to gather these statistics?
(Mr Henderson) We do gather statistics and we would
argue that our statistics are fit for purpose. What they indicate
510. That is a nice phrase, Mr Henderson, "fit
for whose purpose"?
(Mr Henderson) What I mean by that is that it would
certainly be disproportionate to the costs of the HSE to collect
additional statistics. The importance of the accident statistics
511. Do not worry, you had your advertisement
through the previous witnesses, we have heard you need some more
(Mr Henderson) That is not the point I would like
to make. The important thing about national statistics is that
they should not necessarily be regarded as an exact science. What
we need to demonstrate is, first of all, the trends in accident
statistics and also indicate whether a particular industry is
high, medium or low risk. What, in fact, our statistics show is
that, in fact, accidents are creeping upwards, they are risingthey
may have reached a plateau but they are now starting to rise againand
they clearly indicate that docks are amongst the most dangerous
industries on the land. To that extent we would argue that our
statistics do meet those purposes.
512. What has been the impact of the ratification
of ILO Convention 152 on dock workers and health and safety?
(Mr Henderson) I have to say that the United Kingdom
government has yet to ratify Convention 152, we are looking to
do so. It is a convention which deals specifically with the health
and safety of dock workers. Indeed, our principal regulations
which affect the docks industry, namely the Docks Regulations,
are based very heavily upon that ILO Convention. I have to say
that the previous administrations have decided, for a variety
of reasons, not to ratify that Convention. The current Government
is very keen we should actually demonstrate our commitment to
international issues concerning health and safety and we should
consequently ratify the Convention where possible. We are currently
looking at that and we are engaged in discussions with the Department
for Employment and Education to see whether that can be achieved.
513. Do you think that if that were to be implemented
it would lead to a lowering in the level of casualisation within
the industry and it will improve the health and safety?
(Mr Henderson) I would have to say that the ratification
of the ILO Convention will probably make relatively little difference
in the United Kingdom, it is very much an international commitment.
I think the important thing internationally is that by giving
greater emphasis to health and safety we can actually try and
create a level playing field throughout the whole lot. Given that
ports and shipping are an international industry that is vitally
important. I have to say that our legislation, the Health and
Safety at Work Act, the Docks Regulation, which is a mixture of
very specific and very generic legislation, we consider to be
very comprehensive in enabling us to deal with health and safety
issues, although you will be aware that the Government has announced
that there is a Safety Bill to come forward that hopefully will
increase some of the powers and the penalties which are available
to the Health and Safety Executive.
514. Is it the case that your statistics are
broken down to the levels that you would be able to separate the
casual labour from the other labour and to discern whether or
not the casual labour had higher incidents of accidents?
515. Can you do that check, Mr Meldrum.
(Mr Meldrum) Unless they are self-employed the answer
is I cannot. What is happening in a lot of cases is that these
people are employed by labour agencies, such as Manpower or something
like that, so strictly speaking they are employees. Unless they
are down as self-employed I cannot distinguish.
516. Is there any indication in the industry
that these agencies declare that their employees are self-employed,
although they are employed by an agency. Is that happening?
(Mr Meldrum) From the accident statistics very few
are reported as self-employed.
517. When there is an accident is it not the
port authority who is responsible for treating that accident and
making comparative statistics?
(Mr Meldrum) The duty is on the employer to report
that accident. For the self-employed it is the person in control
of the premises.
518. The overall employer is the port authority
(Mr Meldrum) No, perhaps I did not make myself clear,
in a lot of cases the people are actually employed as independent
stevedores, they do not work for the port.
519. I recall when paid sick leave became a
statutory requirement the number of people registering across
the industry absolutely rocketed, I cannot remember the statistic,
I think it was in the 1980s. How many of these three day sicknesses
do you monitor to discover whether they are really seriously accident
based or whether, perish the thought, some of these people are
taking what is called a "sickey", I think?
(Mr Henderson) The duty to report an accident related
to work very much falls on the employer and, therefore, it is
up to the employer to determine whether that particular person
is off work as a result of an accident or ill- health or work
related illness. Clearly we cannot investigate all accidents reported
to us. We do actually look at the actual forms and we do some
monitoring of those. The fundamental duty is on the employer,
if the employer feels that somebody is taking a sickey then clearly
they should not report it as an accident and they should pursue
the matter in other ways.
(Mr Starling) You cannot disguise the deaths, major
accidents and major injuries.