The LWC is a movement of ILA members and retirees organizing to build a stronger and more democratic longshore union.

Three Longshoremen Die in less than two weeks

LWC, Safety and Health in our Industry: Terminal Illness, News - - Posted on August, 26 at 12:03 pm

It’s been a sad August on the Philadelphia and Newark docks with three longshore brothers dying in the space of just 11 days: two in Philadelphia and one in Port Newark.

Carmen (Chuckie) Dirago was killed by a yard hustler backing up on Friday Aug 12 at the Packer Marine Terminal while working for Greenwich Stevedoring. He was run over while standing close to a yard hustler and chassis.

On the same day Don D’Elia, a crane mechanic for Maher Terminal’s in Newark, NJ, was killed while replacing circuit breakers on a container crane.

And then a week later in Philadelphia on Aug 20, a deckman, Vernon Knight, fell from the tween deck into the lower hold and died on a Rickmers line ship while he was assisting the crane operator in spotting the crane.

In Philadelphia many ILA members are scared for their jobs, since one ship line hauling fruit for DelMonte has already left the port for a non-ILA operation, and another is threatening to leave. Sadly this means that longshoremen are less likely to complain about unsafe conditions - such as company pressure to work quickly and cut corners. Employers have put demands on the table to cut gangs sizes and staffing that would make work even more unsafe.

What we need is an effective coast-wide safety committee, with representatives in each port that can look into the details of these accidents and the “close-calls” - and force the employers to take action to prevent similar accidents. If we had the same safety conditions (and gang sizes) in each port, then the companies couldn’t play one port off against another.

The Philadelphia truck fatality (of Aug 12) was remarkably similar to the death of the union sister, Deborah McAlister, in Houston in June 2010, when she was killed when a yard hustlerin front of her backed up suddenly while she was changing the number onthe front of her truck. If we were regularly talking about the causes of each of these accidents, they’d be much less likely to happen again.

We can’t rely just on OSHA, since they don’t know the docks and often there are no standards covering the various waterfront hazards.

The three deaths this month come on top of three deaths earlier this year. LWC members have twice introduced resolutions that have passed both the 52nd and 53rd ILA Convention:





Whereas:                    Too many ILA members continue to die on the job, including the most recent deaths of Paula Bellamy in Portsmouth, Kevin Whyms in Miami, Florida and O.C. Heyman in Miami; and

Whereas:                    Serious career-ending or career-threatening injuries are on the rise; and

Whereas:                    Workplace hazards are the cause of deaths, injuries and illnesses; and 

Whereas:                    The employers have created an unsafe workplace by seeking reduced staffing levels through the elimination of jobs due to new technologies and speed-up of the pace of work (e.g. twin-picking and piggy-back lifts of containers) and other demands; and

Whereas:                    Occupational illnesses are caused by exposure to diesel particulate, repetitive vibration, excessive noise and more; and 

Whereas:                    The employers have failed on their own, without organized pressure from the union and workers to live up to their legal and moral obligation to eliminate and limit injury, illness and death at work; and

Whereas:                    This task is too big and involved for individual members or even their locals; and

Whereas:            Training and safety should be an ongoing and daily part of our profession; and

Whereas:                    A similar resolution passed at the ILA’s 52nd Quadrennial Convention, but the actions taken so far have not adequately addressed the continued injuries and deaths on the job and the ILA failed to implement new national safety standards or create a participatory national safety committee;

Whereas:                    This resolution is sponsored by the widow Pastor Carolyn Whyms of deceased Miami ILA member Kevin Whyms,

Therefore Be It Resolved that this fifty-third Quadrennial Convention of the International Longshoremen’s Association reaffirm the ILA’s commitment to establish an effective ILA Health and Safety Department,

Be It Further Resolved that the ILA will make safety a top priority in bargaining, enforcement and organizing. 

Be It Further Resolved that the ILA will update and rewrite a national safety code for containers, ro-ro, bulk and break bulk work . These shall include the following demands during national bargaining:


  Safety standards for container operations shall be incorporated into Master Contract.

• Right to refuse unsafe work in contract. If there is a disagreement a member has right to refuse until ILA safety delegate investigates on the job.

  Automatic 24-hour pier closure for any death or dismemberment on the pier.

  Minimum staffing requirements on machines that account for job stress created by increased throughput and faster machines and include relief time. Local areas with higher standards will not be reduced. Groundmen for all chassis operations with Rail Mounted Gantry, RTG/trainstainer, Top loader, side loader, reach stacker and Straddle operation.

  Negotiated rules for yard and infrastructure conditions, such as, walkways, lighting, communications, surface condition, ground stability and stack deflection.

  Negotiated rules for yard and ship operations, distance between stacks and rows, spacing between operating machines, rules for yard congestion, interaction with outside truckers and personnel, shipside and ship to shore operations, hatch cover removal, dangerous weather, etc.

  Negotiated rules for machine maintenance and conditions, lights, exhaust, sirens, tire painting, cleanliness etc…

  The employer shall fund and the union shall implement a research program on the long-term effects of diesel particulate exposure, repetitive strain and stress injuries, machine noise and vibration.

  To reduce exposure to cancer causing diesel particulate, the employer shall fund and the union shall implement a research program on the implementation of “green” technology. Including reduced emissions vehicles and heavy equipment and “cold ironing of ships.”

  Increased use of HEPA filters and climate control in vehicles to reduce diesel exposure.

  Immediate right to information such as stow positions, ship manifests, MSDS so that workers know the cargo they are handling, especially in cases of leaking containers, labeled materials, fires etc..

  Contractual enforcement of evacuation plan and procedure for chemical and toxic substance exposure.

  The Employer shall provide and pay for any and all required safety equipment and shall provide high quality work gear for inclement weather including boots and gloves.

  The Employer shall fund a safety man or “dock walker” that inspects operations to assure they are safe before men begin working cargo.

Be It Further Resolved that the ILA Health and Safety Department be fully funded with union-only elected committee persons from every port. This committee must survey the membership on safety issues, investigate accidents, conduct research on occupational illnesses, create an education and training program for members on workplace hazards and their impact.

Be It Further Resolved that this committee will develop a safety mobilization and negotiating plan to push the employers to eliminate injury, illness and death at our workplaces. 

Be It Further Resolved that the ILA Health and Safety Department collect data on all work accidents, centrally compile them and analyze them for prevention and solution strategies. The results and recommendations will be published and reported to the membership at least twice a year.            

Be it Further Resolved that the ILA will develop an independent safety training and professional workshops for all types of cargo to train longshore workers on safe work practices. 

Be It Finally Resolved that deceased ILA members who died in line of work shall be honored by the ILA.

Posted in LWC, Safety and Health in our Industry: Terminal Illness, News |

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