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Safety review after port death plunge

PUBLISHED: 21:30 19 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

SAFETY procedures are today under urgent review at Britain's biggest container terminal following the tragic death of a trainee port worker.

Bosses at Felixstowe said operations are being looked at to see if any more can be done to minimise risk and avoid accidents after father-of-two Dennis Burman plunged 120ft from the top of a quayside crane.

SAFETY procedures are today under urgent review at Britain's biggest container terminal following the tragic death of a trainee port worker.

Bosses at Felixstowe said operations are being looked at to see if any more can be done to minimise risk and avoid accidents after father-of-two Dennis Burman plunged 120ft from the top of a quayside crane.

Mr Burman, 51, of The Poplars, Brantham, had been on a safety exercise at the time, being shown from the top of the gantry crane the dangers of operating the enormous piece of equipment.

He is the eighth person to die in an accident at the port in the past 28 years.

Paul Davey, corporate affairs manager for port owners Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd, said safety was a top priority at the terminal and more than £2 million is spent every year on safety and training.

Ports are busy and dangerous workplaces but the company has a safety department which is working daily with staff to eliminate hazards.

"It is impossible to foresee every possible permutation of circumstances but we work constantly to minimise risk and do what we can to eliminate accidents – that is an ongoing process," said Mr Davey.

"Whenever there is an accident a review is undertaken as a matter of urgency, looking at the likely cause of the accident and to see if there are any lessons which can be learned, and to put in place as quickly as possible any remedial measures which might avoid a repeat of an incident.

"We have a significant safety department working on these issues every day. There is no acceptable level of accidents and we would ideally like to eliminate them altogether, and that's what we are working towards."

Regular safety audits and checks are done to see that all regulations are met, and through the port operators' professional group experience was shared with other ports so that the whole industry could benefit.

Mr Burman, who leaves a widow Janice, a daughter Keri, 12, and son Ross, 16, was being trained to work on the roll-on roll-off berths at the port.

Basic shipworkers undergo 15 working days – three weeks or so depending on shift patterns – of training, including three days dedicated to safety. As a ro-ro operator, Mr Burman would have had a further six days' training.

Workers tend to progress from being shipworkers to tug drivers, rubber-tyred gantry crane drivers, fork-lifts and then onto the quayside cranes, but all of these involve lengthier periods of skills an safety training.

Mr Davey said welfare staff at the port were giving Mr Burman's family help and support and would do all they could to assist them.

A number of port workers had witnessed his fall from the crane and these had all been given counselling for trauma and would continue to receive support.

The Health and Safety Commission has launched an investigation into the accident, though its inquiries are expected to take a while to complete.

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