WorkSafe Vic unpacks risks of unloading shipping containers

Tuesday, 11 February, 2020

WorkSafe Vic unpacks risks of unloading shipping containers

WorkSafe Victoria has issued a reminder about the dangers of unpacking shipping containers, following a recent incident where a production manager died after being crushed beneath a stack of 3.6-tonne truck body panels while unloading them from a shipping container. The employee was inside the container at a truck body manufacturer when the panels crushed him against a wall. There have been a number of serious crushing incidents recently that have resulted in fatalities, amputations and musculoskeletal injuries, affecting workers’ backs, shoulders and arms.

The risk of crushing or entrapment when unpacking shipping containers can increase due to high or sudden forces as a result of moving loads, or the inappropriate packing of shipping containers. Panels, slabs or objects ‘toppling’ (falling from vertical), as a result of an object moving more than expected or in an unintended way, could also increase risk of crushing and entrapment. Incorrect plant usage, such as overloading forklifts and using lift attachments not specifically designed for the task, can also cause accidental crushing or entrapment. Performing activities within the drop zone of an object that is not restrained, or where there is potential for restraints to fail, could lead to accidental crushing or entrapment. Underestimating the mass, speed and force applied to an object moved by a crane or forklift could also lead to crushing or entrapment incidents.

Employers and self-employed persons can control the risk of crushing or entrapment by ensuring that the container is sitting level to reduce the likelihood of panels, slabs or other objects not standing vertically. Before opening any container, employers should check the outside for any damage that may indicate the load has shifted.

When unloading panels, slabs or objects, it is vital to ensure that no person is in the drop zone at any time, and that the lifting gear used with cranes (eg, shackles, cables and clamps) is regularly checked by a licensed person in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Forklift attachments with footplates and side grabs should be used to prevent crates from falling to one side; forklifts must also have the appropriate load rating for all fitted attachments, and must be used as intended. Any engineering controls, such as additional load restraints, must be introduced from outside the drop zone.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 states that employers must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors. Employers are also responsible for maintaining plant or systems of work so they do not pose any risks to health, and for eliminating or reducing the risk of objects falling on the operator of a powered mobile plant, so far as is reasonably practicable. Employers must also provide the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision for employees, and ensure that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer’s conduct. Self-employed persons must also ensure that their conduct does not expose others to risks to their health or safety.

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