This Side Up: Five Cargo Handling Safety Tips

No matter how mechanized and automated it gets, cargo handling is still a common job for maritime workers on vessels of any size or destination.

And as you can imagine, there’s a lot of risk that comes with cargo handling. Far above and beyond the typical loads carried by semi trucks on land, cargo vessels tend to carry giant crates, bulky products, and/or a combination of dangerous materials such as chemicals or similar products.

These jobs, and the vessels they take place on, require a heightened degree of care, attention to detail, and proper safety training. Provided here are five brief tips that, when implemented, can help any major cargo vessel get their work done safely and more effectively:

Tip #1: Always Keep Deck Officers On Duty When Moving Cargo

Deck officers can perform several roles on board a vessel, but when actively loading, unloading, or otherwise moving cargo, having an active deck officer on duty (and nearby) can do a lot to help curtail potential maritime injuries and/or damage to cargo. From their bird’s eye view on the upper deck of the vessel (or the dock, if you’re loading from onshore) they can spot potential issues such as spacing mistakes, crane malfunctions, and other types of damage or equipment misuse and work to inform everyone involved before someone gets seriously hurt.

Tip #2: Maintain Proper Safety Equipment

Even if the sort of safety equipment needed to move cargo has been provided by the shipowner, care needs to be taken to ensure the equipment being used is in working order. Check things like harnesses, helmets, and even safety clothing such as gloves and boots to make sure everything is functioning as designed and can provide the protection your workers need.

Tip #3: Always Be Aware Of Shelter Positions

Above and beyond the typical shelters from things like rough seas, cargo ships are equipped with shelters for workers to protect them from things like falling cargo and fires on deck. Make sure every worker, no matter how experienced (or inexperienced) they are, is well aware of the positions of these shelters, and keep them well-indicated and easy to find in the event of an accident.

Tip #4: Ensure Ventilation Of Cargo Holds & Confined Spaces

In the case of many types of cargo such as chemicals, they need to be kept below decks to further reduce exposure and damage. Many of the below-deck cargo holds used for this purpose suffer from improper ventilation, and in the case of chemical spills and/or toxic gases this can be disastrous for your crew. Take care to make sure all potentially hazardous materials are kept in an area with good ventilation to make sure oxygen is able to enter – and any dangerous chemicals are able to get ventilated back out.

Tip #5: Always Communicate Concerns To A Supervisor

If you work on a cargo vessel, you don’t need us to tell you that things can go wrong – and quickly. If you think something isn’t working the way it should, or if you see a potential issue with the way the cargo is being stored or how the cargo is being moved, these issues need to be reported to a supervisor immediately. Don’t stress about sounding like a worrywart; these issues need to be attended to as soon as they arise, now matter how seemingly insignificant, and can save a life if reported on time.

If you have been injured while working on a cargo vessel on a waterway in the United States, contact the maritime lawyers of O’Bryan Law today and fight for your rights.

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If you'd like to get in contact with us, please fill out the short form below and we will get in touch as soon as possible.