Case study: improving safety policies and procedures

Ausam Terminals (AT) is a multi-user facility provider to the stevedoring industry and operates terminals in the majority of Australian ports. Its 44-hectare Port Kembla terminal caters for unloading and loading a range of goods, including motor vehicles and general cargo. There are about 80 truck movements in and out of the facility every day.

Macarthur Transport has a contract with AT that allows it to access the Port Kembla facilities.

What is the problem?
Macarthur hired a sub-contractor, Robb Transport Pty Ltd, to collect general cargo from the Port Kembla terminal and deliver it to a client in Melbourne. The cargo was stored on pallets and required a forklift to load the flat-bed truck. To assist the forklift operator, the truck driver climbed onto the tray to shift the cargo into position. When moving around the tray, the driver stepped backward and fell more than a metre to the ground, injuring his back and elbow.

A number of factors contributed to the incident, notably:

  • Fall protection was not available on the truck
  • workplace policies at the depot were not observed, such as ‘no climbing on loads’
  • no restrictions placed on drivers’ movements during loading/unloading
  • appropriate equipment not available to access the flatbed of the truck
  • poor communication between AT, Macarthur and Robb about the delivery of the load.

What was done to solve the problem?
In response to the incident, AT:

  • Reviewed their policies about climbing on loads during loading/unloading
  • changed their loading/unloading procedures
  • introduced site inductions for contractors
  • forbid contractors from accessing trailers and flat-beds during loading/unloading
  • trialled mobile stands to access trucks and loads
  • provided fall restraint equipment.

AT also highlighted the issue of falls from height at their 2013 transport forum, provided a site tour for attendees and demonstrated their new loading/unloading procedures.

Macarthur Transport introduced a ‘golden rules’ policy that forbids drivers from accessing their trailers and flat-beds when loading/unloading is taking place. They also updated their inductions for contract drivers.

Robb Transport, in consultation with their insurer, developed a return to work plan for their injured worker, who returned to work one month after the incident. They also developed a new risk assessment for drivers when working at heights with loads.

Business benefits
The benefit to the business in terms of fewer injuries and better control of the risk of falls will be determined in due course.

The average cost of a workers compensation claim in this industry is $3500. It also costs a business at least 10 times the cost of the claim in lost productivity, property damage, replacement costs and working days lost. The cost of the injury may have been in the order of $35,000 for at least one of the three businesses.

Key outcomes
Improved contractor induction and changes to policies and procedures around loading/unloading and working at heights will improve safety for drivers and other workers at the AT facility.

Mobile access platforms have been introduced, along with improved traffic management arrangements, safety zones for drivers, man boxes for forklifts, and elevated work platforms. These improvements will flow on to other AT facilities.

The contractor, Macarthur Transport, now has a stronger focus on safety arrangements in its contracts with AT.

Further information
For more information about workplace health and safety in the road freight transport industry, call 13 10 50 or visit the road freight transport section of our website.

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