Musculoskeletal disorders in the ports and docks industry

Dock workers carry out a number of activities which, if not properly managed, may lead to a variety of 'musculoskeletal disorders' (MSDs).

These include back pain and muscle injuries, and are often the result of poor handling techniques or  tasks involving repetitive movements and/or excessive force.

Injuries can also be caused by the vibration created by some vehicles - this is known as whole-body vibration. Further guidance on whole-body vibration in ports is available.

Some people may not fully recover from MSDs and they can greatly affect your quality of life.

Where MSD hazards can be found in ports

  • Manual manoeuvring of lifting gear and attachments or slung loads
  • Handling of twist locks and unlocking poles
  • Lifting/manoeuvring of lashing bars
  • Breaking out pre-packed or palleted loads
  • Storage and warehousing activities
  • Hauling mooring ropes off large ships
  • Vibration transmitted through the seat or feet of employees who drive mobile machines such as ro-ro tugs and other similar vehicles, over uneven ground or on rails.
  • Use of pneumatic lashing systems

How the risks can be reduced

For manual handling:

  • Use mechanical aids such as motorised winches for hauling mooring ropes of large ships, vehicle mounted hydraulic hoists, portable roller conveyors, pallet trucks, scissor lifts and customised trolleys.
  • Consider whether a load can be changed to make it easier to carry, for example, smaller packages, providing handles or hand-holds.
  • Adopt safe lifting techniques.

For whole-body vibration:

  • Use appropriate machinery for the job.
  • Maintain plant and equipment, eg container cranes and rubber-tyred gantry cranes. Maintenance should include seats, suspension and visibility through windows.
  • Maintain roadways, quays, container park surfaces and rails.
  • Take account of vibration information when buying or hiring equipment.
  • Provide drivers with information on how to reduce risks to their health.

Which laws apply?

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Updated 2021-11-09