Improving pedestrian safety in container ports and terminals



Barry Roberts, sales application executive, and Melanie Gray, marketing assistant, Avonwood, Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom


Ports and terminals can be a difficult environment to work within as they operate 24 hours a day, in all conditions, with multiple employers and contractors carrying out different activities. To ensure a container port or terminal is efficient different types of workplace vehicles have to be operated. It is the duty of an employer to protect the health and safety of workers and to implement safe systems of work. Unfortunately operating workplace transport in close proximity to pedestrian workers increases risk and accidents occur every year which are either very serious or fatal. 

The UK Health and Safety Executive list many areas where workplace transport hazards can occur within ports and terminals. Pedestrian workers are at higher risk of being struck or crushed when vehicles or plant are loading and unloading, moving on the dockside, on access bridges or ramps, reversing and when they are in container storage areas and lorry parks. 

The Department of Transport Port Employment and Accident Rates Survey 2009/10 found that 421 accidents were directly port related or on a port. [ICHCA International Ltd – Port & Terminal Accident Statistics] 

Below we will discuss some of the advantages and potential disadvantages of different safety methods and technologies available to help reduce the risk of workplace transport accidents.

Traffic management

Effective traffic management aims to reduce workplace transport hazards and provide a safe site. Where achievable, pedestrians should be segregated from vehicle movements especially around container handling areas and access routes. Good traffic management with pedestrian and vehicle segregation offers passive control which manages risk without further action. 

Where complete segregation cannot be achieved traffic control measures such as speed limits, road signs, marked surfaces, lighting, visibility, walkways and managed vehicle activities must be implemented to reduce risk. Training, monitoring and site inductions are essential to ensure everyone is fully aware of site hazards, risk areas and safe routes. 

The advantage of implementing effective traffic management is that it can be achieved through careful design and layout which requires limited technical equipment and can have low installation and maintenance costs. 

The main disadvantage is that it relies on personnel taking responsibility for their own safety and if site rules are ignored then little protection will be offered.


Mirrors are a basic vision aid which should be fitted to vehicles to allow the driver to see around the vehicle. There are different types of mirrors available to help reduce blind spots including wide angle convex, convex segmented and panoramic mirrors. 

The advantages of mirrors are that they provide a low cost vision aid to areas of a vehicle which are hard to see from the driving position. Mirrors are prone to vibrations and convex mirrors are distorted which is a disadvantage as this can result in an unusable vision aid especially in wet and dirty conditions. 

Vehicle camera systems – CCTV 

Camera systems allow drivers to see blind spots and obtain views via a cab-mounted monitor. Cameras can be mounted to allow a machine operator to view multiple images at once. It is common on vehicles to see both convex mirrors and reversing cameras fitted. 

The advantage of a well maintained and correctly fitted camera system is that they are quick and easy to implement and provide excellent all round visibility. 

Their disadvantages are the operator must first see the problem and react accordingly. If the system is not maintained, combined with poor environmental and lighting conditions their effectiveness is greatly reduced.

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