Contributing Factors in Maritime Terminal Injuries, Fatalities

There are many factors that can contribute to traffic accidents in marine terminals. Oftentimes, accidents are caused by a combination of factors. OSHA offers the following points to illustrate common traffic safety problems:

  • Unsafe equipment. Broken, improperly maintained, or missing safety equipment, such as lights, seat belts, brakes, and horns, can lead to accidents and injuries.
  • Inadequate traffic controls. Inadequate traffic controls (e.g., lack of proper signage, marking) may lead to accidents.
  • Condition of terminal driving surfaces. Many marine terminals, particularly larger ones, have paved terminal driving surfaces. Paved surfaces, which are smoother, are desirable because they reduce the potential for vehicle tipovers, cargo and equipment shifting, and operator bouncing and allow for improved road markings (e.g., lane markings). However, smoother driving surfaces also require heightened awareness because they can become slippery when wet and contribute to excessive vehicle speed. Road surfaces need to be maintained properly because, over time, paving material can settle and result in uneven surfaces, potholes and sinkholes that can lead to tipovers or other vehicle accidents.
  • Driving obstacles. Vessel equipment, stacked materials, containers, and repair crews are some of the driving obstacles that increase the risk of traffic accidents at marine terminals.
  • Weather. Ice, fog, and rain can create hazardous conditions (e.g., slippery surfaces and poor visibility) in marine terminals. Also, the sun may cause glare on certain types of driving surfaces and vehicle windshields.
  • Inadequate illumination. Poor lighting, particularly at night, and shadows can make it difficult for drivers to see and avoid pedestrians, hazardous driving surfaces, and other obstacles.
  • Welding. Welding flashes can distract vehicle and crane operators. Unsafe vehicle operation. Factors such as improperly loaded equipment, speed, and distractions (e.g., cell phones) can contribute to traffic accidents.
  • Improper parking. Hazards can be created by improper parking of personal or company-provided vehicles and PITs in areas where cargo is being worked on, or heavy machinery is being used.
  • Lack of communication. Accidents often occur because of poor communication. Technicians, mechanics, and other employees fail to alert vehicle operators of their location, and employers fail to notify employees of changes to traffic routes. In addition, noisy terminal environments can hinder effective communications. In some cases there may be inadequate accommodations for persons with hearing impairment or language barriers.
  • Lack of training and awareness. Accidents can occur when drivers and equipment operators do not have adequate training in the safe operation and maintenance of equipment and vehicles. Likewise, pedestrians walking in marine terminals are at risk of injury if they do not receive training on the potential for traffic accidents and how to avoid them.
  • Shift changes. Marine terminal employers report that accidents often occur just before the end of a work shift or while employees are parking equipment at the end of the work shift.
  • Fatigue. Marine terminal employees often work long and irregular hours, which can lead to fatigue and sleepiness. Fatigue and sleepiness can impair operator performance and contribute to workplace accidents and fatalities.
  • Substance abuse. Substance abuse may contribute to vehicle accidents in marine terminals.

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