TT Talk - Keeping people safe in port areas

People and equipment are not always a safe mix, particularly where procedures to manage the interface are unknown and unenforced. There are a number of issues to be considered carefully by port facilities to mitigate the risks of injury and consequent litigation.

Terminal traffic management issues continue to be the cause of about 80% of the costs of major injuries and fatalities in ports. Furthermore, the TT Club's analysis of such claims continues to show too many pedestrians in terminals being injured by mobile equipment. All these accidents can be dramatically improved by the combination of good traffic management and anti-collision technologies.

"Terminal traffic management issues continue to be the cause of about 80% of the costs of major injuries and fatalities in ports."

The general safety issues in relation to traffic management were covered in

TT Talk 138'How to improve traffic management in four easy steps'

; the Club's loss prevention advice focused on four specific issues to mitigate the risks:

  1. Implement one-way traffic flows

  2. Limit vehicles & pedestrians in the terminal yard

  3. Provide site induction procedures for external truckers and visitors

  4. Provide a safe area for truckers to lock/unlock twistlocks

A majority of serious injuries at port facilities are incurred by external truckers, often because they do not know or follow procedures. This continues to be a vexed problem and was the subject of debate at the recent TOC Container Supply Chain Europe event, particularly focusing on the interface in automated yards.

There is a moral and usually legal obligation to communicate with those entering any facility to ensure that they understand how to act in a way that neither endangers others or themselves. In most instances, in the port facility setting, this is best done face-to-face, although it should be supported by clear signage that is not reliant on language or literacy. In better controlled environments training is evidenced by issuance of a photo identity card, which includes the date of induction and is thereafter required for access to the facility. Furthermore, refresher training should be provided periodically and after any significant infrastructure change.

The TT Club's general advice, which is understood to be adopted in most ports, is that truckers should not alight from their cabin anywhere within the container stacking yard where mobile terminal equipment is operating. For the most part this may well be mutually acceptable - why leave the comfort of the cab? However, the terminal staff need to be alert to human behaviour, such as when a driver's dog managed to leap from the truck causing the driver to follow in hot pursuit. Expect the unexpected in any human interface!

"Expect the unexpected in any human interface!"

The terminal should also consider additional protective safety measures, such as automating a slow down or short stop in the process of loading containers onto chassis, minimising the likelihood of striking the truck and providing most effective control over the last distance to placing the unit.

The smooth process of lifting from or loading to chassis is, of course, dependent on the release of twistlocks. Thus, a terminal facility needs to provide a safe area, well away from the stacking area, where this can be done. It is recommended that a dedicated safe area adjacent to the main gates be established, where only external trucks are permitted to stop briefly to carry out this task.

Where such procedures and controls have been implemented, the incidence of injuries has reduced. The remaining risk of container stack collisions or collapses leading to containers falling on the truck cab and injuring the driver can be perceived as a reason to have the truck driver alight from the truck cab. However, the risk of the driver being struck by another truck or other mobile equipment whilst out of the truck cab is far higher. Further, concerns about stack collapses are better resolved with stack profiling to mitigate the risk of knocking containers onto a truck.

The exception to all this is straddle operations where the trucker normally alights from his cabin and stands in a designated safe area while the straddle is placing or removing a container from the chassis. This should equally be outside the stack area and truck drivers should be actively monitored to ensure they remain within the designated safe area.

The debate of where the truck driver is safest has arisen again for terminals with automated stacking yards. Generally, when loading or unloading external trucks, the automated yard crane is remotely controlled. Although this technology is common in other industries, it is relatively new in container terminals. As such some may consider it safer for the truck driver to alight from the truck. For terminals with the stacking modules perpendicular to the berth, where the truck reverses into the loading area at the end of the stack module, it seems common to create designated safe areas, as for straddle operations. This may be safe, but where the stacking module is parallel to the berth, and the truck stops under the end of the stacking crane, it is considered that the truck driver is at high risk of being struck by passing vehicles or mobile equipment if he/she alights from the truck.

Some argue that the truck driver needs to guide the yard crane to position the container onto the truck twistlocks. However, with suitable positioning technology and appropriately positioned cameras, this guidance should not be necessary.

So, in summary, where is the truck driver safest?

  • A safe area outside the stacking yard should be provided for external trucks to lock and unlock the chassis twistlocks.

  • In most terminals, whether with manual, remote controlled or fully automated yard cranes, the safest procedure is for the external truck driver to stay in the truck cab during loading or unloading operations. Where this is not the chosen procedure, a designated safe area should be established where the driver can stand.

  • It is recommended that terminals consider stack profiling for their manually operated yard cranes (RTGs and RMGs) to mitigate the risk of a container being knocked from the stack.

"Whatever procedures are established, it is important to ensure that they are rigorously enforced."

Finally, whatever procedures are established, it is important not only to ensure that they are communicated effectively but also rigorously enforced. Otherwise, not only are the procedures worthless, but the operation is exposed to increased legal liability and also censure from health and safety authorities.

Staff Author

TT Club