Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
140. You have raised it with them.
(Mr Dempster) Yes, I have.
141. When did you write?
(Mr Dempster) In November.
142. Quite a long time to wait for a reply.
(Mr Dempster) To be fair, it is a difficult issue
for them and I know they have been in touch with the Commission.
143. The industry has a pretty poor safety record,
has it not?
(Mr Dempster) I should like to say that we are certainly
not complacent about safety. Safety is always in our minds and
it should be. We felt that some of the language in Modern Ports
was a little extreme, particularly in the use of the word "unacceptable".
I think I should also say that some of the statements about comparisons
between the safety record in our industry and other industries
were new to us. We had not previously seen these comparisons and
since the publication of the paper we have gone to some lengths
to try to investigate this. All I can really say is that it is
a really difficult area to make comparisons of safety records
between different industries where inevitably the risks are very
different. We are certainly not complacent, but we would not accept
that the safety issue is perhaps as serious as the paper Modern
144. What discussions have you had with the
Health and Safety Executive about these sorts of issues?
(Mr Dempster) Immediately after Modern Ports was published
we entered into correspondence with the Health and Safety Executive
on these matters. I should say of course that the Port Safety
Organisation, from whom I understand you will be taking evidence
in one of your later sessions, are obviously closer to the subject
than we are.
145. But you are in a sense employing quite
a lot of people who are involved in the accidents, are you not?
(Mr Dempster) Certainly; yes. May I also say for the
record that the accident record in the port industry has improved
enormously in recent years.
146. But that is due to containerisation, is
(Mr Dempster) That is no doubt part of the reason.
The fact is that the average number of deaths in the industry
30 years ago was 27 a year.
147. Yes, but you are actually handling many
(Mr Dempster) The present average is under three.
We are not complacent and three deaths is three too many, but
it is worth recording that 30 years ago the death rate was ten
times as high.
148. Is there a pattern between the safety record
of the big ports and the smaller ports? Is there any pattern in
(Mr Dempster) Not that I am aware of. If I may say
so, that is something the Port Safety Organisation may be able
to help you with.
149. What about the question of training? Safety
and training tend to go together. How is that dealt with by the
(Mr Sloggett) May I answer that as one of my other
hats is as Chairman of the British Ports Industry Training organisation
and you have us before you in a few weeks time as well. In training
matters we have a training organisation which is an accredited
National Training Organisation, perhaps one of the smallest in
UK industrial terms. We are active in setting competency standards
for staff and we work closely with the Ports Safety Organisation
to make sure we do not tread on each other's toes in sorting out
150. Is it logical to have two separate bodies
for training and for safety?
(Mr Sloggett) Probably not but it is the way things
are at the moment. Speaking entirely personally, it (ie two organisations)
is not something I particularly would like. While we have two
trade association it is very difficult to get those into an industry
representative form. Perhaps when the trade associations have
come together then we shall be able to put PSO and BPIT into the
151. What about the split between permanent
staff and people who are employed by agencies? Does that not make
it more difficult to impose good standards? If you have people
working in a particular place day in day out, they understand
the safety problems, whereas if you are bringing people in, it
is ever so easy for them not to quite understand the consequences
of something they are doing.
(Mr Sloggett) That is true and it is perhaps worth
making the point that many of the organisations representing the
industry lie outside of the direct control of the port authorities.
In the main we have been talking about ports qua port authorities
for much of our time but of course people are employed by a whole
range of organisations, labour providers, stevedores, as well
as port authorities. Nevertheless the Port Safety Organisation
has been instrumental in getting a code of good practice together
for stevedoring organisations of whatever sort. That is something
to their credit and no doubt they will talk to you about it when
152. Do you think that the majority of stevedore
groups now observe that good practice?
(Mr Sloggett) I am quite sure that the members of
the Port Safety Organisation and BPIT abide by it, but obviously
not everybody is a member of those organisations.
153. So there is still the possibility that
the bad employer has a competitive advantage over the good employer.
(Mr Sloggett) Absolutely.
(Mr Whitehead) There was an initiative last year on
non-permanent employees with a code of practice, but perhaps more
importantly a passport scheme so they could actually physically
demonstrate who they were, what competences they had and this
is part of an overall attempt to make sure that those people remoter
from the trade associations and the main groups get the safety
message through strongly.
154. Is that working or can you get these passports
for a reasonable price in a pub?
(Mr Whitehead) Yes, it seems to be working extremely
well. It came in on 1 October and there is a review after a year
to look at its effectiveness. That is the kind of practical measure
we are introducing to try to improve the situation.
155. Most other transport industries have a
legal responsibility which is not diluted by passing the responsibility
down to an agency. Why should it be any different in ports?
(Mr Whitehead) It is not as far as I know. A number
of organisations in ports may not be agents. They may be entirely
156. That is something which could be dealt
with by Government deciding at least to consult you on a series
of constraints which would make the organisations simpler to understand.
There is no logic in having two training organisations, is there?
(Mr Whitehead) That is true. The Port Safety Organisation
is responsible for safety issues and improving competency in the
safety area. BPIT does everything else including whatever help
it can give to PSO.
157. Do you agree that it is not the Government's
job to run the ports industry?
(Mr Dempster) Yes, we certainly do.
158. What comment would you make and what role
would you give to the Government in the broader approach to ports
policy signalled by Modern Ports£12, available from
Her Majesty's Stationery Office?
(Mr Dempster) First of all, we do very much endorse
the statement that it is not the Government's responsibility to
run the ports industry. We work closely and we have a cordial
relationship with Ports Division, perhaps at times a slightly
159. I am glad that tension exists somewhere.
(Mr Dempster) In terms of a comment on Modern Ports,
we do detect a certain greater degree of interventionism in the
Department's attitude to the ports industry than we are accustomed
2 Note by witness: The letter was in fact sent on
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