Several European studies have reported high levels of residual chemical levels in sealed shipping containers. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service found similar results when testing containers in Australia. These findings raise potential issues for worker health when shipping containers are unpacked.
This research was commissioned by Safe Work Australia to investigate worker exposures when unpacking shipping containers at retail warehouse or distribution centres. Exposures for workers who unpacked 76 shipping containers in Melbourne and Brisbane were measured using a combination of video exposure monitoring and gas sampling techniques. Self-reported health symptoms and self-reported work practices were also investigated. While findings cannot be generalised, this report provides indicative results for workers who unpack shipping containers.