Port insists it has zero tolerance to accidents

FELIXSTOWE: Health and safety chiefs have recorded more than 550 injury accidents at the Port of Felixstowe in the past six years.

Statistics released today show that less than ten per cent of the incidents were classed as “major injury” but the majority serious enough for the portworkers involved to need three days or more off to recover.

There have been no fatalities in the past six years.

According to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the number of accidents has increased for the fourth year running – 116 accidents involving workers last year compared with 95 in the previous year, 82 in 2008 and 72 in 2007.

However, the number of incidents involving major injury have been declining.

Last year workers were said to have been suffered major injury in six accidents, while in 2009 it was eight and 2008 there were ten.

The HSE, which investigates industrial accidents, said no notices had been issued requiring a change of working practices in the past six years and no enforcement action had been taken.

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Officials said it was not possible to provide details of the accidents as this would involve an enormous amount of research work.

Head of corporate affairs at the port, Paul Davey said: “Safety is our number one priority.

“We have a zero tolerance policy to accidents – and do not accept any number to be acceptable.

“We have a dedicated team of safety professionals providing support, advice and guidance 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and we take great effort to reduce accidents to as low a level as possible, with the ultimate aim to achieve a zero accident rate.”

FELIXSTOWE: Ports can be extremely dangerous places – a high-pressure working environment with massive moving machinery.

Workers need to keep their wits about them and adhere to all the proper procedures to stay safe.

Despite all the systems and precautions which are in place, accidents are almost inevitable, especially at a complex as large as the Port of Felixstowe, which deals with three million standard-sized containers being loaded on and off ships and lorries every year.

The port’s safety department carries out routine safety inspections, tours, job task safety analysis, risk assessment and accident investigations, in addition to safety training for port staff to increase safety awareness and reduce accidents.

The department is also responsible for monitoring work to ensure the workplace is safe – making checks for gases, chemicals, noise, radioactivity, checking exhaust ventilation systems and lighting.

Serious injuries for workers can be life-changing – and it can take years to resolve issues such as compensation.

Doctors said portworker Alan Thorne, 49, from Felixstowe, would never be able to work again because of the back injuries he suffered in an accident at the container terminal.

But it took a nine-year legal battle before he was awarded a compensation pay-out worth around �500,000 two years ago to make his life easier.

“I will never fully recover, but the settlement will enable me to adapt my home so I can be more comfortable,” said Mr Thorne after the compensation settlement was agreed.

Mr Thorne had been working as a terminal operator when he was in a steel cage being lowered into a hold of a ship.

The cage became tangled against the side of the hold – it tilted and threw him violently about.

? Have you been involved in an accident at the Port of Felixstowe? Was it investigated by the HSE? Write to Your Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.