In the last five years, we have investigated 21 incidents in New South Wales involving workers unpacking shipping containers. Three of these workers were killed. The most serious incidents involved unpacking sheet material such as glass, stone, sandwich panel and timber. If freight isn’t packed with safe unloading in mind or if it becomes unstable during transit, workers unpacking it can be at risk of serious injury or death. If you unpack shipping containers, keep your people safe. Work with suppliers to ensure the load is appropriately packed for safe transit and unpacking.
Ask them to use racks or crates and to secure freight with wrapping or strapping. You can also ask suppliers to use containers that are open at both ends or have an open top for safer access. Plan before you unpack the container, and consider what equipment you will need. Choose an area with flat ground and unpack at ground level where possible. Be careful when opening the container in case the load has shifted. Keep looking for risks as you unpack and adjust your plan as conditions change. Instruct workers about safety procedures.
And make sure they are appropriately experienced and supervised. Use a crane or a forklift with attachments such as grabs, spikes or slippers to avoid manual unloading. Never allow people in or around the container while using machinery to unload. If you’re using a crane and it’s necessary to guide the load, make sure it’s from a safe distance using a tagline. Never allow workers inside the container if there’s any risk of objects moving and trapping them. Where there is a risk, brace freight with suitably rated restraint devices such as props, braces or frames.