From seafarer to stevedore, the shipping industry relies upon the professionalism and hard work of men and women from all around the world to keep the sector afloat. With recent health data released by UK P&I Club revealing high levels of hearing damage amongst crew members, the health of seafarers has been put into sharper focus. Whilst larger shipping companies are in many cases leading the way in terms of offering annual health check-ups to crew (such as the UK P&I Club PEME Medical Screening Programme) smaller shipping companies often slip under the radar. Out of the total of 2.34 million work-related deaths per year, around 321,000 (14%) are related to accidents, while others are due to work-related diseases (ILO, 2013).
Increased automation and ‘containerisation’ does not necessarily lead to a safer working environment for dock workers
For the world’s population of dock and port-based workers, it has long been assumed that the increase in the number of containers and subsequent emergence of a small number of major global operators has led to significant improvements in health and safety protocol and occupational awareness. Whilst data on injuries sustained in container terminals does appear to support this notion, the number of accidents related to cargo handling have increased (2009).
Survey findings released in 2013 by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre (CERC) conclude that although the main terminal 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 (2013). From slips and falls and stacking loads to forklift drivers backing out of trailers, the hazards are obvious. In one study, out of a sample of 306 dock workers in a port in Southern Brazil, 71.89% reported having had disturbances in the musculoskeletal system (2014). In light of such statistics, it is important that dock workers do all they can to maintain musculoskeletal health and practice good posture (on top of any guidelines for heavy lifting and cargo handling). A good place to start is to just practice both standing and sitting in manner conducive to good back posture.