"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Health and Safety at PNG LNG

It sounds punchier than “zero harm” but the PNG LNG project’s safety mantra of “nobody gets hurt” did not ring true in the December quarter due to a workplace fatality, a chicken pox outbreak, one case of malaria and another of tuberculosis.

Detailed in the latest environmental and social report from ExxonMobil subsidiary Esso Highlands, a contractor at the behind-schedule Komo airfield site in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands died from injuries sustained in a trench collapse. 

“The project and Esso Highlands express deepest sympathies to the family, friends, and fellow workers of this team member,” Esso said. 

“Appropriate authorities were notified and an investigation into the incident was completed, resulting in specific measures implemented to address the identified causes.”

The project faced its first contagious illness outbreak for 2011 in the December quarter with a small group of workers succumbing to chicken pox. 

“The project health team and construction contractor set up an incident response team to implement measures to contain the spread of the virus, and to establish a vaccination program for at-risk workers,” Esso said. 

Malaria and tuberculosis are rampant in PNG, yet the workforce only had one serious malaria case and one tuberculosis case in the three-month period which continues a downward trend and indicates management strategies are working. 

To further improve safety outcomes, PNG LNG unveiled a safety champions initiative in the previous quarter. 

However, another contractor died at the Komo airfield site in February and this PNG national was run over by a front-end loader according to the ABC at the time. 

While Esso has confirmed the fatality, it has not confirmed other speculation that the driver of the loader faced immediate and violent retribution from other nearby workers. 

The spotlight on safety was already intensified in January following a massive landslide near the Tumbi limestone quarry used to supply low-grade aggregate for construction work at Komo. 

The landslide claimed dozens of local lives and was estimated to be 30m high and 150m wide.

But an Esso spokesperson has previously told PNGIndustryNews.net that PNG LNG contractors did not carry out any blasting at the quarry, while British landslide expert Dave Petley is not satisfied with the official explanation it was only caused by continuous heavy rainfall. 

The total project workforce numbered more than 14,300 contractors and sub-contractors in the December quarter, and PNG nationals totalled more than 8500.

Despite some setbacks relating to the landslide and high rainfall, the $US15.7 billion PNG LNG project still expects to make first LNG exports in 2014.

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