World trade in goods now makes extensive use of container freight. In Germany's seaports alone, some 15 million containers are transferred and dispatched by land transport throughout the country every year. Opening and unloading of the containers is associated with a wide range of hazards and health risks. During these tasks, acute or chronic poisoning may for example be caused by residues of fumigation agents or industrial chemicals, allergic reactions by mould fungi, and injuries by loads tipping over or falling out of the container. These hazards face anyone opening or unloading containers: not only customs personnel during the performance of their checks, but also employees in logistics companies during goods transfer, and employees at the destination during unloading and unpacking of the goods. Along the entire delivery chain, however, affected persons are often unaware or poorly informed of the hazards arising during container handling, with the result that hazardous situations and accidents repeatedly occur. Rescue and emergency services and doctors are also generally inadequately informed.
In order for the public to be informed more effectively than in the past of the diverse hazards associated with freight containers, the conference of prevention managers of the German accident insurance institutions convened a working group. The group includes representatives of affected accident insurance institutions, the social insurance institutions for the agricultural sector, the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Social Affairs, the German Federal Ministry of Finance, and the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). Overall responsibility lies with the BGIA, the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the DGUV. The primary task of the working group was to describe the hazards which may arise in association with freight containers, to identify appropriate protective measures, and to provide all affected groups with comprehensive information on them.
The working group has compiled all relevant information concerning the possible mechanical, biological and chemical hazards associated with the opening and unloading of freight containers, and has prepared this information for publication on an Internet portal. Effective protective measures are listed, and practical advice provided on the safe handling of freight containers. This includes model procedures, checklists for the commissioning and unloading of containers, and instructions for the production of a risk assessment and on the use of instruments for the checking of containers. Container markings are explained and methods described by which the presence of toxic chemicals in containers can be determined even in the absence of proper marking. The website also contains information for doctors and the fire and rescue services, and on the most important first-aid measures following an accident. Finally, contacts are provided for the various issues which may arise during tasks associated with container freight. The contacts are to assure the provision of comprehensive advice to all affected employees. In further phases of the project, the existing pages are in the first instance to be continually supplemented and updated. In addition, attention is to be drawn to the new Internet portal in the publications of the accident insurance institutions and in specialist journals. Relevant institutions, such as the rescue services, are also to be informed specifically. The new Internet portal is to enable anyone working with freight containers to obtain relevant information. The service, which is free of charge, provides an up-to-date summary at any time of all major issues associated with this topic. It is to heighten awareness among affected parties of the diverse hazards to be considered during the opening and unloading of containers, and provides ready access to information on appropriate protective measures.
-cross sectoral-Type of hazard:
dangerous substances, mechanical hazards, biological agentsCatchwords:
risk assessment, protective measure, accident riskDescription, key words:
freight containers, hazards, fumigation agents, industrial chemicals, mould fungi, protective measures, risk assessment