First container port health and safety study is released

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ITF GNT final version 29-04-13vpThe first ever major international study of health and safety in global network terminals is published today (Friday).

Conducted by Cardiff University and commissioned by the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation), it has been conducted in cooperation with three of the world’s biggest terminal operators: PSAInternational, APM Terminals, and one other company.

 The 94-page report – Managing the health and safety of workers in globalised container terminals – examines six global network terminal (GNT) ports as well as a worldwide survey of ITF member unions. It finds that, despite the major changes associated with containerisation, container terminals remain a high risk environment for dock workers. It concludes that although the GNT operators have made some important strides in improving health and safety management systems, significant improvement is needed in order to bring container terminals up to the standards of best practice found in other sectors where worker participation systems are effectively developed. 

The report lays the groundwork for an even wider and more comprehensive second study, that again is being conducted with the co-operation of PSA International; APM Terminals, and another GNT operator.

Sharon James, ITF dockers’ section secretary, commented: “This is an important, first-of-its-kind project. We commend these three leading GNT operators for cooperating with this research. By engaging in an independent assessment of their performance, these companies are showing leadership for the wider container terminals industry.”

ITF President Paddy Crumlin added: “The findings show that the GNTs have made some important steps to improving their health and safety importance, but there is still a good way to go. This report lays out guidance on what can be done to enshrine and spread good practice.”

A PSA International corporate spokesperson stated: “At the heart of PSA lies a strong, unwavering commitment to provide our people with a safe, secure and healthy workplace and to promote sustainable development in the communities we operate in. We recognise that the improvement of safety at PSA is a journey and as an industry leader, we will continually upgrade our health, safety, security and environment (HSSE) practices and performance and strive to be an exemplary corporate partner on HSSE matters”

Martin Poulsen, Head of Global Safety in APM Terminals, who also operates as the ‘safety activist’, stated: “As a leading port operator we are fully committed to constantly developing and refining our safety management systems and working closely together with our employees as well as organisations such as ITF. We fully agree with the report findings that marine terminals are a high risk environment and that constant research and improvement must take place to ensure that all dock workers can return home from work safely every day.”

The research recognises the ongoing progress on health and safety made by GNTs and recommends that these can be built on in the following areas: Current health and safety systems are largely of the behavioural type (top down, rule-based). Evidence from other industries demonstrates that OHS (occupational health and safety) can be strengthened by worker participation systems, which can address the underlying causes of health and safety problems; There needs to be greater attention given to ensuring that OHS provisions and outcomes are equal for sub-contracted workers; OHS management systems in terminals in the Global North and Global South differ greatly in how they are applied; Current OHS management systems are focused on safety and should pay more attention to health issues such as musculoskeletal disorders and fatigue.