HSE has published a new research report which looks at potential worker exposure to hazardous atmospheres at ports and distribution centres. Research involved visits to six ports and two distribution centres by HSE’s commissioned scientists.
Workers at ports and distribution centres in Great Britain (GB) routinely open and enter freight containers. Freight containers are confined spaces: they have limited or no ventilation in transit and hazardous atmospheres can build up inside. The potential for harm to workers depends on the contents, their condition, and the length of time in transit. Some hazardous atmospheres have the potential to harm workers if breathed in. In these cases it’s important to ensure that workforces are protected with properly fitted face masks and ongoing Health Surveillance including Spirometry (Lung Function) and Skin Surveillance.
Freight containers may contain toxic substances such as fumigants and carbon monoxide, or have dangerously low oxygen levels. Potential harm includes asphyxiation and ill health. Dutyholders must have effective control measures in place to protect workers. HSE publishes guidance and an Approved Code of Practice for the Confined Spaces Regulations (1997) that will help dutyholders.
This recent report describes research into the potential for workers to be exposed, and control measures in use in GB. The research included a review of scientific literature, and observations and measurements made in 2017 to 2019 at volunteer sites – six ports and two distribution centres. The literature from 2000 to 2015 had reports of ill health incidents outside GB. Measurements of the atmospheres inside freight containers at the volunteer sites found a wide range of toxic substances and low oxygen levels.
You can read the full HSE report here: View Report