Freight container safety

All participants in the logistics chain – from owner drivers with one vehicle to large fleet operators, to shippers and warehouse operators – are likely to work with containers on a daily basis as drivers, loaders or handlers.

Accidents may happen at any stage of a container's journey; many of these will be serious or fatal, including crushing and falls from height. These accidents may be caused by human error or failure of technical items.

Typical hazards regarding freight containers in ports

  • Structural failure due to lack of maintenance and wear and tear
  • Structural failure due to overloading, misdeclared weight, uneven or shifted loads
  • Falls from height while working with containers
  • Crush injuries during container manoeuvring and movements
  • Exposure to fumigants used during transit or chemicals given off by cargo that may build up during transit

How the risks can be reduced

All of these can be reduced by proper planning of work and training of workers. Before any work tasks are carried out, the relevant risks should be identified through risk assessment and appropriate control measures put in place to protect against them.

Port Skills and Safety (PSS) have produced a comprehensive 'Health & Safety in Ports' guidance document entitled SIP003 – Guidance on Container Handling that covers these issues in more detail.

This document has been produced by the ports industry, with assistance from HSE, to help dutyholders understand their duties under health and safety legislation and to identify key risks. This guidance also gives examples which dutyholders can use to inform their risk assessments and procedures.

Which laws apply?

Further information

Further guidance and publications on freight container safety and Periodic Examination Scheme (PES) or an Approved Continuous Examination Programme (ACEP) are available on the publications page.

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Updated 2021-11-08