Skip to main content

Health and safety in the port industry

Effective training and standards save lives in ports

The health and safety of dockers is a high priority for the ITF and its affiliates.

Working in ports can be dangerous and dockers face many risks each day, things like working at height, falling cargo, and heavy machinery. But certain factors make hazards more likely:

  • untrained, casual labour, sometimes even seafarers used to handle cargo
  • long hours or inadequate breaks
  • increased working speed in the drive for profit
  • inadequate or unsuitable safety equipment, clothing and procedures
  • a lack of training

The ITF is campaigning for minimum health and safety standards in ports around the world to protect dockers when they are at work.

Securing containers is particularly risky. Between 30 and 40 percent of all injuries at container port facilities occur aboard ships during lashing operations, according to the International Cargo Handling and Coordination Association.

As well as supporting our affiliates in their organising and campaigning on health and safety issues, the ITF is the voice for workers in setting internationally recognised labour standards at bodies such as the International Maritime Organisation and the International Labour Organisation.

ITF study on HIV/AIDS, ports and port workers

The ITF carried out two surveys in 2011 – one into the views of affiliated dock and port workers’ unions across the world and one into the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of individual workers in four affiliates from Belgium, Guatemala, India and Kenya. The report also includes a short overview of HIV/AIDS and ports. The Dockers section has produced an HIV/AIDs resource pack for dockers unions and is working actively with unions to tackle HIV/AIDs as a workplace issue in ports around the world.

The ITF dockers’ section also commissioned a study into health and safety in ports that focussed on worker representation in the formation of health and safety policy in the four largest global port operators. This work is ongoing. The initial report can be found here:

Take action

Report accidents as soon as they happen

Providing real evidence of poor health and safety standards is key to the campaign so we can show the effects of bad practice. Keep records of all incidences and accidents in your workplace.

Share best practice in health and safety to help other workers fight for better working conditions. Email