We at Tough Yakka take the safety of workers in the warehouse extremely seriously. That allows us to live up to our legal duties to the highest possible standards.

Any work carries an element of risk and by its very nature warehouse work is physical and demanding. Bulky goods, poor lighting and uneven flooring are just a few of the everyday hazards our teams may come up against.

We’ve compiled this guide to flag up some of the key issues around container unloading safety. Read on for the container unloading guidelines you need to know about.

Container Unloading Guidelines and Managing Risk

Assessing risk means considering what might go wrong and what the consequences would be. You should then do whatever is reasonably possible to mitigate the dangers. To manage risks connected to unpacking shipping containers, you need to take 3 simple steps:

  • Spot possible dangers
  • Weigh up and consider these dangers
  • Eliminate the dangers where practicably possible

When deciding how to control risks you should consult colleagues directly involved in that particular part of the workflow. Their experience will help you select the right control measures to put in place.

You should keep your control measures under review so they stay relevant. Given the diversity of items packed in containers, the management of risks is also likely to vary from one container to another.

The Basic Principles for Safe Unpacking

It all starts with having a carefully thought-through plan. All workers should have received the appropriate training, be wearing the right PPE and work under supervision. Before starting on any unpacking, you should:

  • Check if the load has moved or looks unstable
  • Avoid letting workers inside a container if there’s been a chemical spill
  • Ask yourself if there’s a risk of becoming trapped in the container
  • Never let people and mobile plant equipment in containers together
  • Avoid working alone and never stand close to an unsecured load
  • Continue assessing the risk even after unpacking begins

Engage With the Supplier

Whenever possible, get a packing plan from your supplier. This should include:

  • An inventory of items
  • The weights of the goods
  • Where packers placed items in the container and details of restraints used

All this information will help you to come up with a safe system of unpacking for your warehouse labour team before the container even gets to the site.

Where Containers Get Unloaded

If a container gets placed in an inappropriate place on site, it can create a number of risks including electrocution, slips and falls, a collision between people and equipment, physical issues for workers, and getting struck by a falling load.

Here’s what you can do to mitigate these risks:

  • Consult with the workers who’ll be unpacking the container
  • Consult with other site users in advance
  • Consider the navigation of the container and potential obstacles
  • Go for an unpacking site with sufficient space and stability
  • Check that there is adequate lighting
  • Assess the impact of environmental conditions such as the weather

Before You Open the Container

When loads are in transit, they can shift especially if they weren’t packed properly. They may start pressing against container doors. That can lead to a loss of control and workers getting hit by falling loads on opening the container.

You can reduce the risk of this happening if you:

  • Never assume a load is 100 per cent secure when opening a container door
  • Use a restraint like a rope, net or barrier on the door
  • Carefully open the right-hand door first
  • Proceed with the left door only once you’re sure it’s safe to do so
  • Check to see if the goods have moved once the doors are ajar
  • Consult with workers to implement a safe way of unpacking
  • Check labels for warnings about contents

Before Unpacking the Container

For best container unloading safety, always have a strategy. You should do the following:

  • Work out the order workers should remove items to mitigate instability
  • Decide how much warehouse labour you need to safely unpack the container
  • Determine the equipment you’ll need to unpack the load
  • Ask whether you need extra equipment, conveyors or PPE
  • Choose the best location for unpacking the container
  • Consider where goods are to go once unpacked

Getting the Unpacking Process Right

There’s always an element of risk when workers unpack heavy, tricky or unsecured items. There may be heavy lifting involved requiring awkward or repetitive movements, for example. Using mobile plant can help but can create other risks such as workers getting hit by a forklift. You can reduce the risk of injuries by doing the following:

  • Only remove the restraints of an item currently selected for removal
  • Temporarily use restraint devices like props, braces or frames
  • Remove any obstructions and have a realistic traffic management plan
  • Use mechanical loading and unloading systems such as electric pallet trucks
  • Ensure workers get training in the safest ways to work
  • Ensure goods get handled between knee and shoulder height
  • Use pallet jacks, pallet rollers, trolleys or adjustable conveyors
  • Use PPE such as hi-visibility clothing, hard hats, gloves, and safety glasses
  • Use a tagline to guide loads lifted using a crane
  • Make sure any attachments and slings gate inspected and maintained
  • Avoid overloading
  • Be extra vigilant when unpacking glass sheets, panels or stone sheets
  • Use an A-frame when necessary and secure sheets with separate straps
  • Unpack only in a designated area
  • Make sure the load gets secured at its final destination

Human error is one of the key causes of injury in the container unpacking process. Ongoing training is essential for ensuring everyone is always safe. Here are some of the topics to keep across when focusing on container unloading safety:

  • Recommended ergonomic movements to stop acute or chronic injury
  • How to secure cargo during loading
  • The safe removal of secured cargo during unloading
  • The use of a robust warehouse management system
  • Equipment usage and best communication techniques

Your Warehouse Logistic Services Covered

Container unloading safety is in our DNA at Tough Yakka. We follow our own container unloading guidelines to the letter to ensure workers who carry out all warehouse labour duties are always as safe as possible.

Get in touch with us today so we can sort out all your warehouse labour needs.