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When it comes to the health and safety of your personnel, nothing should fall through the cracks. The port industry is no exception to this: If you are currently running roll-on and roll-off operations—from ports to terminals to vessels—you need to be mindful of the safety best practices round-the-clock.

Workplaces need to be free from accidents, injuries, and fatalities to optimally fulfill their operations. In which case, ro-ro operators are responsible for complying with safety rules that protect crewmembers, stevedores, longshoremen, and office-based employees. 

What Can Contribute to Ro-Ro Accidents?

There are several factors to watch out for when implementing safety hazards in ro-ro. The following are based on the guidelines set by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA):

1. Lack of training. The inability of employees to perform their duties due to lack of training can be detrimental to worker safety. Without proper training in the field, serious injuries can occur to the employee and/or those around them.

2. Fatigue. Being overworked is common in the port industry because the operations are non-stop. Being overfatigued makes it difficult for any crew member to stay focused on the job and have the energy to perform at their best.

3. Inadequate traffic controls. Managing automobiles coming in and out of the vessel can be hazardous without a proper traffic control system in place. Arrangements should be made to ensure everyone’s safety, such as creating clearly marked walkways or putting stoplights to manage traffic.

4. Material failures. Worn-out machinery is prone to accidents. Some old systems may malfunction in the middle of high-intensity activities.

5. Unsafe walking surfaces. Tripping hazards are common in cargo holds. Working areas must be free from debris and lashing points, or at the very least, there should be signages that alert workers if they are in unsafe working areas.

6. Inadequate ventilation. Internal combustion engine-driven ships must have proper ventilation around-the-clock. If left unattended, this could exceed the allowable limit of carbon monoxide concentrations.

7. Improper use of—or failure to use—personal protective equipment. Protective equipment exists to keep hazards from inflicting further injuries, especially burns or electrocution. Protective equipment such as chemical hood respiratory masks also keep you from inhaling harmful chemicals.

How Ro-Ro Operators Can Promote Health and Safety

As the port industry continues to advance, changes have introduced new hazards. The occupation taken upon by port workers has very high accident rates, so doing at least the bare minimum health and safety protocols will go a long way in mitigating risks. 

That said, each ro-ro operator should be able to develop, manage and implement working initiatives that promote the safety of its workers no matter what circumstances they are in. Here are a few general principles to follow.

1. Design a protocol that prevents your worker from handling crucial tasks alone. Accidents can happen anytime, especially during critical activities. If you have enough manpower to handle port activities, make sure that everyone has an accountability partner. But in circumstances where only one person can do the job, make sure that there is good communication with a party chief or anyone within the port to check on your worker’s safety.

2. Set a working budget for protective gear and other safety materials. Estimate your budget allocation for protective gear, warning signages, alert systems and other precautionary items to protect your workers during operations. Set aside a budget for testing equipment as well. It’s helpful to use expense report software to help you manage and track costs, ensuring that all crucial gears are purchased first.  In addition, include a budget for repairs and inventory. 

3. Make sure air flows properly. Adequate ventilation ensures that port workers have access to clean and sustainable air while on deck. According to the International Labour Force (ILF) in Geneva: “When internal combustion engines exhaust into a hold, intermediate deck or any other compartment, the employer must ensure that the atmosphere is tested as frequently as needed to provide carbon monoxide concentrations from exceeding allowable limits.”

Tests should be made regularly to ensure that the area is conducive for workers to perform their duties in without worrying about inhaling harmful chemicals. Likewise, the ILF mentioned that managers should ensure that no papers are on the loose and are properly stored in a secure and organized fashion. Papers tend to be sucked into the exhaust ventilation system, which could block airflow.

4. Make safety protocols visible. While most safety protocols are common sense, some people can forget them or not be trained in performing them properly. Make all your safety efforts obvious to port workers so they have reference materials when they need them most. For example, print out catalogs that tell them a step-by-step process on how to put out a fire in case it happens.

All signage should be clearly displayed throughout the site, whether on the ship or at the port. This should include a 24-hour emergency hotline as well as a map to the nearest clinic, hospital, fire station or police department. Entry and exit points, first aid kits and other emergency equipment should also have signage so workers know where to find what they need.

5. Be mindful of vehicle stowage and lashing or unlashing. Make sure that all vehicles, trailers and other automobiles are secured before taking off. The best practice is to secure one vehicle before another is positioned behind it. Also, lashers should have their own lashing points, both on the automobile and the ship.

6. Beware of slips and falls. Onboarding the ship is hazardous due to inadequate lighting, frequent weather changes and fluctuating water conditions that can make the deck very slippery. Make sure to put clear warning signages in areas that are prone to slips and falls, and make sure that these are well-lit. Likewise, prepare an on-site emergency plan that outlines clear instructions on what workers need to do in case of a fall.

7. Double-check machinery before sailing off. For safety purposes, make sure that you have experts inspect the machinery, the schedules of the workers, the first-aid kits, and other equipment. Check if there are possible oil spillages and if so, avoid all contact unless they are deemed safe. Note that chemicals release toxic fumes that may cause injuries or even start a fire.

Prioritize Safety First at All Times

These are some of the most basic health and safety practices you can do in your ro-ro operations, but they are not intended to replace any national regulations. Rather, they should help give you a better idea of where to start improving your organization’s protocols.


5 Tips to Increase Industrial and Manufacturing Safety

Safety is a significant concern for anyone who cares about their well-being. In some cases, neglecting safety practices puts others at risk too. The adage “you are your brother’s keeper” means just that; look out for each other. Certain habits can safeguard you, while others can put you at risk. Therefore, choose your habits wisely.

If you’re running an industrial and manufacturing plant, you are concerned about the safety of everyone. You do not want high insurance bills and loss of working hours due to injuries you would otherwise have avoided. It has to be said, according to David Rowland, Head of Marketing at Engage EHS, that the responsibility for health and safety starts with the directors of a business. However, if they get this right, and instigate a cultural shift in their company, the benefits can include greater brand loyalty and a higher bottom line. Here are a few tips that’ll increase everyone’s safety while at the plant:

#1: Wear Safety Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPEs) is a must in any industrial and manufacturing plant to enhance safety. As these are areas with various equipment, it is best to safeguard yourself at all times. Operating without PPE is putting not just yourself but others at risk. Make your employees aware of their responsibility for safety gear and ensure safety rules are strictly adhered to.

#2: Train Employees to Report Anomalies Immediately

The best practice is to bring to attention any anomalies one may encounter in the line of duty. Ignoring small irregularities like nails projecting from the floor, spilt liquid, or malfunctioning equipment can enhance the possibility of a catastrophe happening. Employees should seek the attention of the person responsible for corrective measures immediately.

Create a culture that makes it possible for any worker to report anomalies. Where possible, inspire them to immediately address the problem to avoid accidents and injury to others who may pass the same area and be oblivious to the danger. For instance, the person who discovers an oil spill on the floor should clear it up as soon as possible to prevent someone else from slipping. After cleaning up the spill, the employee can then report it to the supervisor, who will ensure it gets attention.

#3: Educate Workers on Safe Practices and Hazard Areas

A considerable number of hazards that occur in industrial and manufacturing plants are a result of negligence. Instruct your employees on how to correctly operate machinery, electrical equipment, handling toxic materials, etc. Some poisonous materials affect health and also expose the plant to fire and explosion risks.

When flammable materials are not in use, proper storage practices must be adhered to, ensuring they have assigned lockable storage. Ensure that the storage facility is away from ignition sources. Dispose of certain waste types daily–for instance, combustible waste. It is best to store them in metal repositories. At the same time, dust should not be allowed to accumulate as this is a fire hazard.

#4: Put Focus on Ergonomics

Ergonomics causes a considerable number of workplace injuries. Because industrial and manufacturing plants have heavy equipment and tools, there is a fair amount of bending and lifting required. Suppose your employees are not aware of the correct bending and lifting methodologies. In that case, the chances of them suffering from musculoskeletal disorders are high. Put a great deal of focus on ergonomics and educate your workers adequately.

#5: Avoid Workers Getting Fatigued

Electrical equipment operation requires alertness. When one is sleepy or suffers from fatigue, concentration becomes difficult, which is a recipe for disaster. To curb this problem, encourage your workers to take breaks throughout the day to maintain focus and alertness when working.


Holly Shaw is a freelance business writer.