Cargo handling used to be a thoroughly manual operation. However, in recent years, it has evolved into a highly mechanized process where high-end state of the art equipment is heavily involved in every step of the process. But, human factor has not been eliminated completely. It is still part of the process and along with it, comes an abundance of safety concerns.

 Safety awareness is paramount if shipping personnel is to carry out cargo handling operations in a safe environment. There are several ways to ensure that cargo is handled safely on ships, including safety training of the personnel involved in the process and proper use of material handling equipment.

Following is a brief discussion of suggestions and recommendations that come into play when handing cargo onboard ships. Close observance of these recommendations can go a long way into safeguarding the life and well-being of all those involved.

Tip 1: Use of Indicated Personal Protective Equipment

Use of the right kind of personal protective equipment, e.g. safety harness, helmets, shoes, etc., is absolutely mandatory when handling cargo. Failure to use such equipment at all times exposes the personnel to a long list of risks, involving that of fatal injury. All persons involved with cargo handling must be equipped with the appropriate PPE and be familiar with its proper use. Optimal use of such equipment also involves caring for proper maintenance and checking the equipment for damages before use.

Tip 2: Do Not Tamper with Safety Devices and Understand All Safety Procedures

All crew members must be aware of all available safety devices for protection in case of unforeseen incidents before carrying out any cargo handling operations. Crew members must not tamper with the operation of such devices under any circumstances. Thorough understanding and strict observance of safe cargo handling methods and practices is also mandatory to ensure safety.

Tip 3: Identify Shelter Positions

Familiarization with all available shelter positions and options is necessary for all those involved in the cargo handling process onboard. Crew members must know where they can seek shelter during an emergency or where they can wait safely while cargo is amidships or being set on deck.

Tip 4: Secure the Cargo

It is absolutely necessary that all cargo being handled is secured upon setting on deck. Piggyback cargo is to be avoided. Cargo that is secured is safe cargo. All cargo must be secured as soon as it is set in the storage area. Loose cargo poses a serious threat to the safety of the personnel and often leads to grave injury of onboard personnel. Any type of cargo that is not placed in containers must be properly secured at all times.

Tip 5: Use Lifting Equipment Safely

Onboard cargo handling operations require the use of specialized lifting equipment, such as forklifts, cranes, wire ropes, slings, hooks, etc. To ensure safety while working with such equipment, it is necessary to make sure that it has been tested and maintained according to applicable rules and codes. It is also important that such equipment is used according to its intended purpose at all times. Improper use of lifting equipment and accessories poses a grave risk to those involved in the performance of the operations and other people in the vicinity of the work area.

Tip 6: Do Not Stand Under Suspended Loads

It is never safe to stand or pass under a suspended load or cargo being hoisted to a different location. Failure to adopt safe working practices in this respect has led to major or even fatal accidents in the past.

Maintaining safety conditions while hoisting cargo onboard requires that the crane operator ensures a safe cargo hoisting path and on-deck personnel are well familiar with the loading path and are able to stay clear of suspended cargo throughout the operation.

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Tip 7: Ensure Good Ventilation of Confined Spaces

Oftentimes, cargo handling requires that crew members enter a cargo hold with insufficient or no ventilation at all. Failure to adhere to standard safety procedures could result in cargo handling personnel entering oxygen deficient environments or confined spaces filled with toxic gases with dire consequences. Consequently, all confined spaces must be well ventilated to ensure availability of sufficient oxygen before personnel is allowed to enter and perform any cargo handling operations. Oxygen content in confined spaces can be checked using special equipment.

Tip 8: Ensure Good Visibility

No cargo handling operation must be carried out when visibility conditions are not good. When visibility is poor as a result of various reasons, including adverse weather conditions, necessary action must be taken to enhance work space lighting. It is imperative to make sure that lighting is not glaring or dazzling and does not impair visibility of any section of the work area. Poor lighting conditions in the work area are a major cause of severe accidents.

Tip 9: Safely Handle Bulk Cargo

Handling of bulk cargo requires the involvement of several people usually working in the hatch to get cargo in and out of it. Those working in the hatch are usually not able to fully ensure their own safety. Therefore, proper supervision, preferably by a person on-deck right above the hatch, will ensure that safety rules are observed throughout the process.

Tip 10: Timely Notification of Supervisor in Case of Concern

The supervisor must be notified immediately whenever there is a doubt concerning whether the work space remains safe for the performance of cargo handling operations. Unsafe conditions that might give rise to safety concerns include hatch covers that appear to be loose, improper positioning of load to be hoisted by the lifting equipment or any other condition which might compromise safety of the cargo handling operation. It is absolutely imperative that all relevant concerns are brought to the attention of those involved in the process.

Though not exhaustive, the aforementioned list of cargo handling safety tips can greatly enhance safety conditions onboard. If you are involved with the cargo handling process, make sure that you are well familiarized with safe cargo handling practices on ships. Your life and the life of others around you depends on it.