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The stevedoring industry has high rates of serious injury. On average, the rate of serious incidents in this industry is more than three times the average rate for all industries and more than twice the rate of the construction industry. In the 14 years to 2016, 12 workers were killed in the stevedoring industry.

Stevedoring: a definition

Stevedoring involves all activities directly connected with:

  • loading or unloading vessel cargo
  • stacking and storing on the wharf
  • receiving and delivering cargo within the terminal or facility.

Stevedoring operations are as diverse as the goods which are imported and exported from Australia. The methods of loading cargo range from goods which are pumped directly into the holds of the ships to goods packaged into shipping containers and loaded via specialised cranes.

The hazards associated with this work are similarly diverse.

Hazards associated with stevedoring operations


Examples of tasks

Potential harm

Hazardous manual tasks

Lashing and unlashing

Fitting or removing twist locks

Working above shoulder height

Strains and sprains

Cuts and abrasions

Working at height

Working near an open hatch

Accessing cargo

Climbing ladders

Falls causing disabling injury or fatality

Working in restricted or enclosed spaces

Working in holds

Working in between cargo

Crush injuries

Respiratory conditions


Falling objects

Working with suspended cargo or unsecured loads

Crush injuries



Plant and equipment

Working in and around mobile plant e.g. straddle carriers, internal transfer vehicles (ITVs), reach stackers, rubber tyred gantries (RTGs) and forklifts

Damaged or poorly maintained equipment like damaged ladders, electrical cables, ropes, stretched chains and defective hooks

Crush injuries

Disabling injuries


Working environment

Working in extreme weather conditions

Working in holds and on deck

Working near refrigerated containers

Sunburn and skin cancer

Heat stress, strains and sprains due to slips and trips

Fumes or atmospheric contaminants


Lashing next to refrigerated containers

Jump starting vehicles

Isolating equipment

Electric shock


Fatalities (electrocution)

Stored energy

Pressurised liquids and gases

Tensioned cable or ropes

Disabling injuries



Using noisy machinery or power tools

Hearing loss

Hazardous chemicals including dangerous goods

Loading and unloading hazardous cargo

Exposure to chemicals used to fumigate ship’s holds

Respiratory conditions


Skin conditions



Hot works e.g. welding or oxy-cutting

Handling combustible cargo


Smoke inhalation



Working in inadequate light for instance in holds or at night

Slips, trips and falls

Failure to follow safety procedures

Using incorrect lifting gear

Not verifying safe working load

Not checking service history where required

Crush injuries


Hazards in the stevedoring industry regularly co-exist, for example stevedoring operations may involve being near moving parts of plant and carrying out hazardous manual tasks where there is a high level of noise.

Model Code of Practice: Managing risks in stevedoring

We have developed a model Code of Practice: Managing risks in stevedoring to support the model WHS laws. It applies to all workplaces where stevedoring operations are carried out and provides:

  • practical guidance to help stevedoring businesses achieve the standards of health and safety required under the model WHS laws, and
  • practical advice to PCBUs and other duty holders to manage risks associated with stevedoring.

This model Code should be used in conjunction with the model WHS Act and Regulations and other relevant legislation such as Marine Orders.

Managing risks when unpacking shipping containers

We have developed a series of information sheets that provide practical guidance on how to manage health and safety risks associated with unpacking shipping containers, including exposure to hazardous chemicals such as fumigants and solvents.

Further advice

Safe Work Australia is not a regulator and cannot advise you about compliance for stevedoring. If you need help, please contact your state or territory work health and safety authority.

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