Working at height in ports and docks

Working at height is one of the biggest causes of work-related fatalities and major injuries.

Many of the activities carried out in ports/docks could lead to a fall from height. These activities may be during routine operations, maintenance activities or unexpected or unplanned activities. In ports/docks, the added hazard of working near water means a fall may lead to the risk of drowning.

Typical falls from height hazards in ports and docks

  • Access to and from vessels by accommodation ladders, quayside ladders and gangways;
  • Container working - lashing and unlashing;
  • Loading and unloading some types of cargo, such as pipework, timber packs etc, can result in open edges from ships' decks, and from the cargo itself;
  • Access to and from places of work on board vessels (holds, hatches, decks etc)
  • Falls from vehicles and trailers during loading/unloading and sheeting (links to the National Archives)
  • Maintenance and unplanned work
  • Working adjacent to open edges of docks, wharves etc
  • Falls from plant and machinery
  • Mooring points (eg dolphins)

Before any work is carried out at height the risk should be determined and appropriate control measures put in place.

Which laws apply?

The Work at Height Regulations 2005

Further information

Port Skills and Safety website for guidance on:

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Updated 2022-07-13