Contain Your Risk! Safety Reminders for Unloading Shipping Containers
Unloading shipping containers isn’t quite as easy as unloading groceries from your car. Workers must be aware of the many safety hazards that await them if done haphazardly. What are these hazards and what can an organization do to mitigate the risk of injury or worse?
Workers involved in the loading and unloading of containers should be appropriately trained in how to avoid risks such as
- falls from height,
- being hit by falling objects,
- hazardous chemicals,
- environmental conditions,
- repetitive strain injuries, and
- slips, trips, and falls.
The consequences of risks associated with unpacking shipping containers include minor sprains, strains, abrasions, fractures and in some cases, death.
A few reminders on safe loading and unloading that could prevent an injury and are worth reviewing:
- If the container is to be unloaded from the top, there is a risk of falling from height. Have a secure platform on which to stand, ensure there are no obstructions around the unloading area and that all surfaces are free from spills that could cause a fall.
- Containers must be set on level ground so there is no chance of tipping when being unloaded. When the load shifts, the container shouldn’t!
- When opening the container doors, be aware! You don’t want an avalanche of materials falling on you – take steps to use safety gear such as door securing devices so that you can partially open the doors to see if the cargo has shifted.
- Depending on the payload transported, other safety precautions could include hazmat gear and respirator masks in the case of chemicals or flammable cargo.
- Unpacking goods manually can lead to musculoskeletal injuries caused by repetitive actions or by working with goods above shoulder height or below knee level. To avoid the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, forklifts or other mechanical aids should be used when unloading containers.
- To reduce the risks associated with slips, trips and falls when unpacking containers, ensure the area around containers and pallets is cleared of obstructions. Floor surfaces should be even and clean with barricades and signage to prevent access to unsafe areas.
Proper oversight by supervisors is crucial to preventing safety exposures such as these. Workers must be aware of the risks and have the training and judgement to identify and report unsafe working conditions. Look for exposures and review safety procedures before taking unnecessary risks in loading or unloading containers and play it safe!