Five Safety Tips for Unloading Containers

Severe accidents still happen frequently during the unloading of freight containers. These tips give advice how to play it safe.

Containers determine global trade - but also harbour certain risks. Photo: Matthias Rathman

Containers determine global trade – but also harbour certain risks. Photo: Matthias Rathmann

According to a study, 20 per cent of all import freight containers are contaminated with harmful pollutants. Moreover, there is a great risk of accident during manoeuvring and unloading. Safety measures depend on the type of container, the cargo and the local circumstances. People involved in the handling of the containers should be advised carefully and trained regularly. The following tips of (in German) help to prevent accidents:

1. Be careful during manoeuvring

The situation at container yards is mostly dense and unclear. On top of this, the factors time pressure and insufficient traffic regulations complicate the situation. Still, the trucks with the containers need to be marshalled. Always make sure that you stay in the field of view of the driver. Ideally, you involve a second person as a hedge. Basically, clear traffic regulations, additional mirrors as well as good lighting increase the safety during manoeuvres.

If containers get placed on uneven surfaces or sloping ramps, there is a risk of tipping. Therefore you should care for a safe stand.

2. Safety measures while opening

Often, cargos aren’t correctly stowed or secured and can get out of place during the travel. The container doors could be under tension and could suddenly burst open. Additionally, loose items could drop out when the doors are opened. Therefore, please make sure:

  • Use bolts that inhibit a sudden opening of the doors
  • Always open the containers in sets of two people, positioned laterally to the container
  • Attach securing devices to protect items that fall out
  • Use safety belts and coupling grabs

If the cargo contains chemicals, you should at least wear a respirator mask. The risk of intoxication and explosion calls for trained experts to unload the hazardous goods.

3. Releasing the transport restraints

When releasing the transport restraints, items often get loose.

  • Inspect the goods and packaging carefully before you release the transport restraints
  • Unload successively, which means you release the next restraint only if the previous cargo has been taken out
  • If necessary, ensure additional safety measures

4. Avoiding falls

Open top containers are up- and unloaded from above. As falls happen often, leading to severe injuries, particular care is required.

  • Set the loading bridge safely and ensure a firm stand.  A stable lifting platform is an even better solution
  • Before you start the unloading, look for possibilities to sidestep to able to evade in a safe place in case of emergency
  • If it is not possible to ensure a safe stand, use a fall protection

5. Suitable means of transportation and transport routes

Platforms that are constructed insufficiently, inadequate transport routes as well as incorrectly dimensioned industrial trucks can lead to a fall over of transport vehicles or of the charge.

  • Please ensure that suitable slings are used for fork lifts
  • Industrial trucks should be well dimensioned and get examined regularly
  • Transport routes and ramps should be well specified and secured in order to avoid vehicles to fall over

Read more: Duties of employers: Five tips for occupational safety

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