According to statistics from an Australian safety authority, over the past few years there have been at least 21 accidents with workers being injured while unpacking shipping containers.
Tragically, as many as three workers lost their lives while unpacking these shipping containers. Safe Work Australia has issued a number of brochures containing new guidelines regarding safety and security of unpacking the shipping containers. Some of the highest risks associated with unpacking containers include the following:
- Accidental falls
- Getting hit by objects that fall from the containers
- Direct exposure to hazardous chemicals
- Extreme environmental conditions (heat vs. cold)
- Accidental slips and trips
Workers are highly exposed to the risk of contamination caused by different chemical agents available in the air, or coming from the containers. Many of these hazardous chemicals can actually cause genetic defects, and exposure to such chemicals can increase the risk of developing cancer.
For example, chemicals such a methyl bromide or phosphine are fumigants highly used in pest control. These fumigants are used to keep away rodents, but if people come in direct and repetitive contact with these chemicals, they are exposed to serious health risks.
Safe Work Australia recommends equipping the containers with efficient venting systems. These will help in the reduction of airborne contaminants within the container, right before the workers will actually enter the shipping container and start the unpacking process.
One such venting system recommendation is the use of mechanical ventilation, where through blowing or extraction, these hazardous chemicals can be removed before the worker will enter the container. It is recommended that such mechanical ventilation is performed for at least half an hour, to eliminate properly all contamination risks.
The new guidelines on unpacking shipping containers safely can be accessed online here.