Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Study of Shipping Container Terminals Compares Safety of Moving Freight Worldwide

Unions and Operators Compile a Report of Use to Anyone in a Materials Handling Environment
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Earlier this month the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) released a ninety six page report which takes a look at the dangers associated with working in a modern shipping container terminal, something well worth reading for anyone who finds themselves in any way associated with health and safety matters in a freight or materials handling environment, not just within a deep water port scenario.

Conducted by Cardiff University and commissioned by the ITF, the report was compiled with the cooperation of three of the world’s largest box terminal operators, including PSA International and APM Terminals, and although the risks associated with dock work are considerably different, and certainly less apparent, than a generation or two ago, there are still factors which can cause long term and serious injury if neglected.

Compared to the traditional port work of old today’s docker generally is employed in a much safer environment but certain jobs can still present a real physical threat with jobs such as container lashers pointed out as still having significant risk levels. What is made abundantly clear is that there are certain circumstances which make working in a container terminal significantly more hazardous, and which demand attention.

Firstly there are the conventional risks associated with working in an environment where machinery and loads are constantly on the move but there are less obvious factors, such as working long shifts with insufficient breaks using heavy machinery of poor ergonomic design. There are risks from toxic materials and other dangerous circumstances which could largely be avoided with proper in house training.

What became abundantly clear was that the three companies concerned had all made sterling efforts to minimise risks to their employees but despite this recognized the need to continually develop their health and safety systems and accepted that there was a need to communicate with other similar operations to understand all potentially dangerous scenarios. Martin Poulsen, head of global safety in APM Terminals, who also operates as the ‘safety activist’, stated:

“As a leading port operator we are fully committed to constantly developing and refining our safety management systems and working closely together with our employees as well as organisations such as ITF. We fully agree with the report findings that marine terminals are a high risk environment and that constant research and improvement must take place to ensure that all dock workers can return home from work safely every day.”

What will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the rapid development of such facilities worldwide is the report’s conclusion that here were differences of quality and scale in the risks perceived to be significant by participants in terminals in advanced market economies and those in advancing ones. In underdeveloped economies risks tended to be associated with poor workplace conditions, inadequate and dangerous equipment and infrastructure.

In developed countries the major risk factor was complacency, and whereas both sets of workers suffered when the intensity of their duties increased, workers in the developing economies suffered more than their more affluent counterparts and the contractor workforce in the Asian terminals was regarded as more vulnerable to risks to their health and safety than the European or American equivalent.

You can download and study the report for free HERE.