The range of hazards evident within the marine industry is rife. And, perhaps nowhere as prevalent as in Ports. In these busy and bustling settings, ships from all over the world navigate past each other. They drop off cargo, pick up shipments and deal with the barrage of legal documentation needed to ensure every marine movement goes to plan. With so much movement, it’s understandable that the risk of injuries and accidents here is significant. And, having a clear understanding of the relevant guidelines and legal requirements placed on you when working in ports is also vital. That’s where this guide comes in. We’re going to go through all of the recommendations for health and safety in ports to keep you, your crew and the cargo onboard safe.

Current Legal Guidelines

There are several legal documents in place that help to outline the best ways to minimise risk in port environments. These include:

Safety in Docks – Approved Code of Practice

This document provides information for those responsible for upholding the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 within their business. It outlines the safe means for operating within docks and covers all sized areas from large-scale shipping ports through to harbours. The document covers all manner of factors including:

  • Working at height (includes access to and between ships, cargo and fencing).
  • Workplace transport.
  • Lifting operations.
  • Slips and trips.
  • Rescue and life-saving from water (includes unfenced quay ends, pontoons, handholds, ladders on quay walls etc).
  • Transport by water.
  • Lighting.
  • Dusty cargoes.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Confined spaces.
  • Emergency planning (includes rescue from isolated positions).
  • PPE.
  • Lone working.
  • First aid.
  • Accident reporting.

It has been designed to give guidance on how to abide by the law. The information given here is practical and discusses the needs of organisations to put in suitable arrangements for managing health and safety. This includes identifying the risks, who they could do harm to and what can be done to minimise these risks. It also puts the responsibility on employers to discuss with their employees on matters regarding new potential risks and the need for additional training.

This document can be downloaded for free and in full here. It is a vital read for any business working within ports, regardless of the size and scope of their activities.

Dangerous Goods in Harbour Areas Regulations 2016

These provisions are put in place to safeguard ports from accidents that involve dangerous goods. This covers any activity that occurs during transit through large-scale ports and through to the smallest harbours. It states that anyone bringing goods that cause danger into these environments must provide a warning to the harbour master who then has the power to regulate this as he sees fit. The port is required to produce a plan to deal with emergency activity to take into account any accidents or incidents that may happen. And any explosive materials brought into the port or handles within its vicinity must be accompanied by a license from the relevant party (either the HSE or the Office for Nuclear Regulation).

When the regulations were updated in 2016, they were adjusted to provide a clearer definition of what products fall into the dangerous goods category and give more power to the harbour masters. Additionally, exemptions were written in to cover specific activity, including those by the military.

More information about these regulations can be found on the HSE website here.

Fishing vessels in ports

While the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) is largely responsible for the activity of fishing vessels, there is still HSE legislation that governs the loading and unloading in ports. This addressed the need for safe working conditions and access to areas such as shipping holds and ship-to-shore locations. It addresses issues such as the availability of adequate lighting, how to deal with unsafe and slippery surfaces and what the correct route of escape should be in the event of danger.

It’s important to note that the Loading and Unloading of Fishing Vessels Regulations 1988 apply to all vessels used to transport or store fish – regardless of whether they’re travelling internationally or not. It works to maintain a safe port environment for this very specialist branch of the industry when taking into account specific hazards – including the wet and slippery environments.

Specific risk areas within ports

Alongside the legislation we have raised above, there is other advice available to help identify risk and minimise likelihood. Some information about this is listed below:

  • Container Handling
  • Specifies that any specialist freight containers must have approval by the HSE, that they must be plated with a permanently affixed safety approval plate and must be marked to show maximum operating gross weight. More information is available here.

  • Mooring
  • States that it is the responsibility of the owner of the shore fixtures to ensure they are suitable for use, strong-enough and provide a safe berth for vessels. The operator is also responsible for accessing risks and putting into place actions to minimise this. And that the Port Marine Safety Code should be followed at all times during mooring. More information is available here.

  • Lighting
  • This document identifies the importance of appropriate lighting, the hazards which are associated with inadequate lighting and the factors to consider when choosing the right apparatus. More information is available here.

  • Safe Access
  • Here, you’ll find information about proper maintenance for access routes including ships accessways and accommodation ladders. It covers the recommendations around minimising access here to protect the safety of crew or customers. More information is available here.

  • Water Safety
  • This document covers how to identify and use the right type of buoyancy equipment in ports to help rescue those drowning as a result of falling from the dockside. It covers lifejackets and other aids found within the ports industry. More information is available here.

Health and safety within a port environment is a wide and extensive subject. Further information surrounding all of the different areas can be found on the HSE website here. Equally, the team here at Pinpoint Electronics are experts when it comes to marine safety. If you have any questions, would like advice or are looking for equipment to help prioritise safety in your next route, get in contact with us here today.