Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440 - 459)



  440. Extrapolation.
  (Mr Jones) The survey we undertook actually covered over 9,000 employees. From that data and from estimations of the organisations that did not reply it is possible to extrapolate reasonably accurately, I suggest.

  441. Has this survey been a recent development?
  (Mr Jones) It is here, it is going to be published this week.

  442. Yet, Mr Compton said there is no meaningful knowledge about how many people are employed in the industry. It is very important. We are dealing with training and health and safety within this industry.
  (Mr Sloggett) This is not the first survey, it has been done at least once before.

  443. When was that?
  (Mr Sloggett) It is done every two years, there was certainly one done in 1999.
  (Mr Jones) 1998 and 2000.

  444. The membership of your different organisations, could you give the Committee some idea of the make up of that membership, how many and where they come from?
  (Mr Jones) Yes, certainly. Of all of the port authorities and the harbour authorities that are represented by the two main trade associations, the BPA and UKMPG, BPIT, but there are some—


  445. Would you tell us what all of your initials stand for, please?
  (Mr Jones) British Ports Industry Training, may I refer to it as BPIT.

  446. Yes. Can you also give us the names of the two trade associations. If we want an accurate record it is always helpful to put it in English.
  (Mr Jones) Of the organisations represented by the British Ports Association, the BPA and the United Kingdom Major Ports Group, UKMPG 78 per cent of those are members of the BPIT, but there are some major ports outside the membership of BPIT.

Mr Stevenson

  447. Any trade union membership?
  (Mr Jones) The membership is for organisations in the industry, employers.

  448. No employee representation.
  (Mr Jones) Yes.

  449. Can you identify who that might be?
  (Mr Jones) We have two trade union members on our board.

  450. From which union?
  (Mr Jones) From the Transport and General Workers Union and from NUMAST.
  (Mr Compton) As far as major ports are concerned all the members of the UKMPG, the United Kingdom Major Ports Group are members of the PSO. The British Ports Association has submitted to you a list of ports that handle over one million tonnes per annum and of those one is not a member of ours, and we are talking to the managing director at the moment. The DETR in Modern Ports identified 35 ports which handle over two million tonnes per annum, and only two of those are not members, one is in Scotland and one is listed as a river. The Port Service Directive proposals refer to three million tonnes as a limit, of those, the same, one in Scotland is not a member, all of the others are. All of those over 500,000 passengers, which was the other limit in that Directive, are members of the PSO.

  451. We have had some evidence that suggests that the spread of casualisation since 1989 has increased the difficulties in coherent training programmes and, secondly, increased health and safety problems. Would you agree with that? If so, what statistics have you available or evidence available to examine this issue of casualisation in terms of trading and health and safety?
  (Mr Compton) Certainly it is true that the amount of what we call non-permanent employees engaged in the industry has increased. There are different types of engagement, of course, there is the engagement of somebody who is taken on, perhaps, for one day and then goes away again and may have no knowledge of the industry at all. There are other arrangements where you have a pool of people who are very experienced and trained within the industry and are held to be used and it is gauged when they are needed. It is a concern and it has been a concern of the industry. As a result of that concern and arising directly from a presentation made to the National Health and Safety Committee by Colin Carr, who you saw a moment ago, plus the safety officer in Mersey in May 1999 the whole industry has developed and adopted a voluntary code of practice, which is the first time the industry has ever done something like that on the engagement of non-permanent employees throughout the industry. It was adopted in May of last year and came into force in October last year. We are due to carry out a survey at the end of this month, that is to say surveying six months on, as to how effective that has been in its implementation. We are also bound after a year, that is in autumn of this year, to review that code of practice to see if it needs to be improved in any way. Basically what it is doing is saying that no non-permanent employee of any type should be engaged in cargo handling activities unless and until that person has received safety induction training and has a card to that effect, a card which we call a Port Safety Induction Card that is given to them by the organisation coming out of training and he carries that with him. In Colin Carr's port of Liverpool over 900 people have been through safety induction training courses as a result of this and my information is that at the very sharp end, where the most hazardous work is carried on, the accident rate has reduced by 50 per cent in the 12 months since that has started.

  452. Is that 50 per cent reduction in what I would term as "casual labour"?
  (Mr Compton) Yes, I think it is, because it is in the company that supplies labour to the container terminal, which are the lashing jobs on ships.

  453. Is the training also part of this code of practice, Mr Sloggett?
  (Mr Sloggett) The code of practice that has just been described is an issue about safety. There is a demarcation between PSO and BPIT, in that we do not get involved in safety issues.

  454. In terms of training, presumably you would incorporate some safety training, is it not important that some sort of system, ie code of practice or whatever, is also agreed and implemented so that you can have a better idea and more knowledge about what is happening or should happen in terms of casual employees in the industry?
  (Mr Sloggett) Absolutely. Just before I enlarge on that point can I go back to the membership statistics. When you asked about the memberships of our respective organisations I think the answers that both of us gave you were in respect of ports authority membership of our organisations. Obviously in our ports there are a host of other organisations which may or may not be in membership. When one says that a port is a member of the British Ports and Industry Training Organisation that usually means that the port authority is and then other organisations in that port, like stevedores or labour suppliers may or may not also be. Regarding the other point you raised, BPIT has been instrumental in setting standards and national vocational qualifications for a whole range of activities in the port industry, so there has been that sort of standard-setting which we would like to promote to everyone who works in our industry.


  455. Do you have to establish a safety case in the same way that you would do in some other industries?
  (Mr Compton) Not unless that particular legislation that requires that applies. That applies on the railways, and it applies in areas of major hazards.

  456. The implication of what Mr Sloggett was saying is you could have a port authority who were complying with not only the code of conduct but also with the suggestions on training that you are talking about. If there are vast numbers of contractors and subcontractors in the same port they are not either bound by the code of conduct or by the same training facility, so they could have vast numbers of people working for them who would have no training at all.
  (Mr Compton) There are general requirements within health and safety laws for employees to be trained according to their jobs and the requirements of those jobs. Although the Port Authorities are main members of both organisations we also have a lot of those companies, these cargo handling companies as well. Could I quote you the way which are PSO membership is broken down: Port Authorities 42 per cent; stevedores, terminal operators, container bases and other cargo handling companies 30 per cent; shipping companies with shore-based operations 9 per cent; local councils 8 per cent; labour supply companies 4 per cent and others 7 per cent. It is quite a broad church actually.

Mr Bennett

  457. Can I take you back to the safety induction course, is it a good course or is it what you can fit into a half day or something like that?
  (Mr Compton) The PSO with its members developed some guidelines for such training. The way it is written is that it is flexible because what is needed in one situation may be very different in another situation, it depends on what the non-permanent employee is going to be engaged in doing. If you take a non-permanent employee who is already able to drive a car and he has been taken on to drive trade vehicles and trade cars off of a ship to a terminal car park, as it were, then there is a certain amount of induction training needed there, about the nature of that port, that area and the safety of driving on and off ships. If you take a person on to lash containers on the deck of a container ship that is a much more hazardous operation, indeed it would need a lot more not only induction training about that job and that port but a lot more training with regard to the job itself.

  458. If you take those sort of induction courses do you think the quality of the courses are good or are they restrained by the amount of time an employer will pay for somebody to be on the course?
  (Mr Compton) In truth we will only know how that has worked out in practice when we carry out our survey. It came into force last October. It has had a profound effect, it is fair to say, but just how it has worked in detail, and that is one of a number of aspects, we will only find out when we have held the survey.

  Chairman: Could you give us a supplementary note on that when you have, at least, your first impressions.

Mr Bennett

  459. You said that you think the accident levels have plateaued, does that mean you have the figures or is that what has happened as far as the rest of accidents in industry are concerned and that you are as an industry the same as the rest?
  (Mr Compton) Firstly, the Government said that in their revitalisation initiative.

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