TT Talk - Building the safety business case

The ‘risk function’ in any business commonly concentrates on the root cause for losses and seeks to identify ways to reduce the likelihood or the impact going forward. There are, of course, a number of options available in this process in relation to accidents, including adopting new technologies, implementing revised procedures or, indeed, ensuring that an insurer will cover the costs of recurrence. All too often this process is flawed because there is too little recognition that there is a strong correlation between a healthy, safe workforce and a healthy balance sheet.

Over many years, the TT Club has been privileged to collaborate with many operators in the supply chain industry to implement safety initiatives, covering aspects as diverse as traffic management, safety devices on equipment and revision to operating procedures. In most instances, the Club has been able to support the business case by demonstrating elements of the direct costs incurred, alluding to the broader loss to the business and assisting in developing appropriate remediation.

The Club would urge operators to view health and safety as integral to business success, rather than a cost burden. Any incident carries with it many hidden - and potentially uninsured - costs, such as: reputational damage; loss of management time; additional staff or supplies; increased training, inspection and maintenance requirements; operational delays, possibly leading to contractual penalties; fines; and legal costs. Studies have suggested that these costs can be as much as 36 times the amount spent on insurance premiums! In many instances, however, there are opportunities to raise productivity, increase motivation and improve reputation by investing in safety.

The TT Club is pleased to continue collaborating with organisations such as ICHCA International and PEMA, and the recent publication of "Recommended Minimum Safety Features for Container Yard Equipment" provides advice on mitigating observed risks in the industry.

A couple more case studies illustrate further common container terminal risks.

  • While hoisting and trolleying over a stack, the operator of an RTG misjudged the position of the top container on the stack and dislodged it. The container fell and landed on the cab of a passing independent truck, crushing it completely. The trucker was pinned inside, almost underneath the steering wheel, and the fire department had to use the ‘jaws of life’ to cut him free. He incurred serious back injuries and was lucky to escape with his life.

    The Club has seen an increasing number of similar accidents where containers are accidentally knocked from the stack in the yard or on the ship. The installation of stack profiling and height controls ensure that any lack of awareness or inattention by the operator does not lead to an accident.

  • A laden export container was being lifted from the delivering truck by an RTG. Unfortunately, the truck driver had failed to unlock the chassis twistlocks and so the entire rig was lifted about a metre off the ground. The RTG operator realised there was a problem and quickly lowered the container. However, this resulted in the truck driver suffering back injuries due to hitting the ground hard, as well as damage to the rig equipment.

    There are differing operational procedures concerning how and where twistlocks are released or truck drivers are situated and protected; the risks need to be carefully evaluated. However, in many instances optical sensor measurement can monitor wheel axles and stop a hoist when lifting the rig is identified.

    Another exciting emerging technology is twistlock load sensing, which dynamically measures the weight and can be compared with declared or expected weight. This technology has the potential additionally to identify a number of dangers, including cargo packing eccentricity and weight mis-declaration.

These cases are amongst those that can defeat the common misconception that safety initiatives inevitably result in greater cost in operations. Admittedly, the direct financial returns may not be substantial in a given time horizon, but consideration of the benefits and opportunities can make the business case more persuasive. Moreover, scrutiny of the impacts on the business, including the diversion of key staff, in the event of an incident can be overwhelming.

Staff Author

TT Club