TT Talk - Making the yard a safer place


The advent of containerisation had a profound impact on the waterfront, not simply in relation to the way in which cargo was handled, but also the risks presented to the workforce and other people who have need to be within a terminal facility. Prior to containerisation in the 1960s, the dock industry was dominated by manual handling with its high volume of people and high number of accidents and injuries. A veteran safety expert recalled the surprisingly genteel response recorded on a witness form involving one accident when a docker’s foot was crushed by the steel wheel of a loaded hand truck – ‘Oh, you’ve run over my foot!’ was said to be the immediate response.

Although terminal facilities are now far more sparsely populated, risks have arguably increased. Hand trucks have typically been replaced by a variety of sizeable industrial machines. Despite improved information systems and training, together with development of personal protective gear and a strengthening safety culture, where benchmarked ‘loss time injury’ statistics are available, the containerised industry seems to lag behind other comparable industries, such as mining.

The TT Club has repeatedly identified issues that contribute to major injuries and fatalities occurring at port and terminal facilities. Accidents involving large mobile handling equipment (lift trucks, reachstackers etc) result from collisions with other vehicles or striking fixed objects, overturning, as well as dropping or ’nudging’ loads onto other vehicles or pedestrians. These accidents are generally caused by driver error, but can be dramatically improved by a number of initiatives.

Previously, TT Club has focused on good site management: promoting one-way traffic flows; strictly limiting the access of vehicles and pedestrians to the yard; implementing thorough site induction procedures for external truckers and visitors; and identifying a safe area for truckers to lock/unlock twistlocks away from the terminal stacking area.

Now, based on research of claims that have been notified to the TT Club, and collaborating with two leading industry bodies, ICHCA International and the Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA), a new publication entitled “Recommended Minimum Safety Features for Container Yard Equipment” has been released. Following the previous success campaigning for increased safety measures to address common incidents arising in quay crane operations, the three organisations have identified additional safety devices that can be implemented on yard equipment, along with other operational changes in order to reduce injuries and fatalities, as well as cargo, property and equipment damage.

Focused on container yard equipment, the analysis of claims data over a period of six years from operators of container terminals, yards and other container handling facilities encompassed 4,000 claims valued above USD10,000, with a total cost of USD 341 million. This revealed such telling statistics as:

  • 53% of the total cost of operational related claims were caused by yard equipment
  • 75% of the cost of injury claims in terminal facilities resulted from yard equipment accidents
  • 67% of costs related to fires were attributed to yard equipment

It became clear that, despite all innovation, there remains a heavy concentration of avoidable incidents; up to 1,600 claims amounting to USD 130million resulted from such incidents. Equally, it was recognised that changes to operational procedures, additional training and/or fitting safety equipment to machinery could significantly reduce this bill.

For example, lift trucks were involved in 30% of the bodily injury claims analysed. This was mainly the result of trucks reversing into people. The installation of anti-collision devices could potentially have saved USD30 million and prevented 51 workers from being killed or suffering serious injury over the last six years.

Chart: TT Club Global Analysis of Yard Equipment Claims in Ports and Terminals (By Cost of Claims)

The new tri-partite publication offers comprehensive advice on how to mitigate the risks identified in the claims analysis, galvanising the considerable operational experience and technical expertise of the participants. These preventative measures include the installation of reliable safety devices on the yard equipment. While these safety features and technologies are available and proven, they are not commonly part of standard specifications.

However, the TT Club advises that adoption of the recommendations must go hand in hand with safe procedures, training and effective maintenance and yard design, including controlled traffic flow arrangements and speed limits. Nevertheless, the document will assist in assessing the risks involved in the choices concerning the appropriate type of equipment to be deployed.

The full text of the “Recommendations” is available from the TT Club website. They are voluntary and do not override mandatory international, national and local regulations. Further, it is recognised that technology solutions do not preclude all claims – they can support good practice and prevent certain accidents, but effective and continuing training of all personnel accessing a facility using these types of equipment is paramount.


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