Read the traffic signs

Accident count: 85% of the cost of major injuries and fatalities are caused by vehicles and heavy equipment Accident count: 85% of the cost of major injuries and fatalities are caused by vehicles and heavy equipment
Industry Database

TT Club's Laurence Jones explains how simple traffic management procedures can reduce incidents

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in the busy ‘industrial’ port environment, 85% of the cost of major injuries and fatalities are caused by the use of vehicles and heavy equipment. Of this, trucks and cars are involved in an alarming 30% – colliding with each other or fixed objects, overturning or hitting pedestrians.

A further 23% of the injuries are caused through the use of lift trucks (reachstackers, forklifts and so on), again striking pedestrians directly or through dropping loads onto people, in addition to them overturning. Similar incidents arise in straddle carrier operations, amounting to 13% in TT Club’s analysis of the causes of insurance claims. Cranes (RTGs, RMGs and so on) contribute 19%, mainly resulting from loads being dropped onto vehicles or pedestrians. In addition to these equipment related claims, the traditional trips, slips and falls amount to 13% of the value of claims.

The galling truth is that the vast majority of these incidents are caused by human error and most are preventable by changed practices. Aside from the often tragic human consequences, these incidents are resource-heavy as management becomes necessarily involved in the substantial emotional, relational and reputational aspects of safety failings, let alone the potential for litigation and large settlements to the victims or their estates.

Detailed analysis of the incidents has repeatedly identified that focusing loss prevention on four specific issues substantially mitigates the risks. Needless to say technology can assist further, but dealing effectively with simple traffic management procedures, which cost disproportionately little, will save lives.

First, implementing one-way traffic flows reduces collisions dramatically. The immediate perception may be that this will compromise productivity, but most facilities have found that not only do accidents reduce but productivity increases. 

Second, reducing the number of third party or non-handling vehicles and pedestrians allowed into the terminal yard immediately minimises incidents. It is strongly recommended that private vehicles are totally banned and that company vehicles have high visibility strips or colour and/or flashing lights. Equally, pedestrians should not be allowed on the terminal at any time; terminal staff and any other personnel should be transported in company vehicles. Procedures should also be adopted to limit the need for personnel in an operational yard. Ships’ crew must not be allowed to walk through the terminal; segregated access way or a dedicated vehicle/bus should be provided for personnel access to and from the ship. Further, security personnel should not be positioned on foot in the terminal; CCTV’s should be utilised and security personnel located in a control room.

Third, as the majority of serious injuries in a terminal facility are incurred by external truckers - often because they do not know about or fail to follow, safety procedures - a site induction procedure should be provided to anyone entering the terminal. Ideally, face-to-face training should be provided for all external truckers, similar to the training given to terminal staff. Truckers can then be given photo identity stating the date he was inducted and a period of validity. Access to the terminal without this card would then be impossible and refresher training can be provided as appropriate. As an alternative, web-based inductions are becoming popular and can include tests and appropriate validations.

Fourth, within container terminals, it is generally recommended that truckers do not alight from their cab anywhere within the terminal stacking yard where cranes, straddle carriers or lift trucks are operating. However, truckers need to alight to lock and unlock the trailer/chassis twistlocks, so the facility should provide an appropriate safe area within its perimeter, but away from the operational yard, where only external trucks are allowed to stop briefly for this purpose.

All procedures must be enforced consistently in order to maintain a strong defensible position.

While incidents often result from human error, their volume is determined by how well safety systems and procedures are implemented. Basically this is reflective of the culture of an organisation and controlled by management. However, improving safety is multifaceted and needs to recognise that humans are prone to make mistakes. No amount of training will eliminate all errors. Hence, the long term aim should be to identify safer procedures and to re-design the terminal or to include new technology solutions to reduce the reliance on training.

Laurence Jones is risk assessment director at the TT Club.


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