Seaports and docks are working environments that provide a unique range of hazards and exposure to injury. As such, the docking industry is considered to be a particularly high-risk industry. Port and dock workers are required to work both night and day with heavy equipment and specialist machinery in all kinds of weather.
International statistics show that the main causes of accidents and injuries on ports are slips and trips, being hit by moving or falling objects, falls from a height, and manual handling strains. While these hazards are common in many workplaces, some are unique to seaports and docks in their frequency and the unique way they manifest themselves.
Manual Handling Injuries
Seaport and dock workers are required to perform a variety of manual handling activities. Injuries from such activities involve frequent bending and twisting, repetitive movements and/or excessive force, whole-body vibration, as well as strenuous physical work. Such activities include:
- Operating container cranes, straddle carriers and other heavy machinery
- Lifting, carrying and manoeuvring loads
- Storage and warehousing activities
- Hauling mooring ropes
Reduce the risk of manual handling hazards by investing in mechanical handling equipment, such as vehicle-mounted hydraulic hoists, portable roller conveyors and pallet trucks. This will reduce manual handling operations to a minimum. Educate your workers on safe lifting techniques and encourage them to take frequent breaks during monotonous and repetitive tasks.
Moving Vehicles and Equipment
Docks and seaports often involve the use of vehicles in tight spaces near pedestrian workers. As such, there is an increased risk of being run over, crushed or falling from a moving vehicle, as well as property damage. Hazards associated with moving vehicles and equipment include the loading and unloading of vehicles, reversing vehicles on decks and manoeuvring through tight corners.
You can reduce the chance of injury from vehicles by providing appropriate road signs and markings. Use railings and barriers to separate vehicles from pedestrians, as far as reasonably practicable.
Loading and unloading materials is the essence of port logistics operations. For large containers and items, workers use of a wide range of lifting equipment, including cranes and forklift trucks.
Poorly planned lifting operations can lead to significant risks to workers, including serious fatal injuries or being hit by falling or moving objects. Hazards from lifting operations on seaports and docks include falling loads resulting from poorly stacked stock and lifting equipment failure.
The risk of hazards associated with lifting operations can be reduced by keeping pedestrians away from lift operation areas and ensuring that all workers are trained in safe lifting procedures. Regularly inspect your equipment and attachments and perform regular maintenance to prevent breakdowns and failures.
Slips and Trips
Slips and trips are some of the most common forms of workplace accidents. With water being a constant fixture of docks and ports, the threat of a slipping hazard is always there. In addition to water, incorrectly stowed cables and ropes, poor lighting and uneven flooring all contribute to the threat of a slip or tripping hazard.
The first step to reducing the risk of a slip or a trip is ensuring that your walkways and flooring are built from anti-slip flooring. Weather and impact-resistant flooring and gangways don’t only protect your staff and visitors, they are also low maintenance and highly robust. This means that they are a great investment that provides immediate returns.
Ensure that your walkways and corridors are well lit, so that tripping obstacles can be removed or avoided. You should also regularly inspect your walkways and stairs for damage and obstructions.
Falls from Heights
Working on docks and ports provides a rare opportunity for the risk of a fall from height. Since docks are near water, a fall can result in the threat of drowning as much as broken bones. Working on the dockside, where handholds are few, provides many opportunities for falls.
In addition to protecting against slipping and tripping hazards, as above, you should ensure that any work taking place at heights is carefully organised. Make sure that your work areas are regularly inspected, risk assessed and that all necessary provisions are taken into account. Make sure that guardrails are present wherever possible and use edge protection such as nosing to avoid wear and tear.
No matter which industry you work in, safety comes first. This is much more important in docks and seaports, where the hazards are so numerous and the risks have much greater implications.