In what has been heralded as a “landmark study”, Cardiff University has reviewed health and safety in the global container terminal industry. The report, published on 9 September, was jointly commissioned by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (“ITF”) and the Institution of Occupational Health and Safety (“IOSH”).

The findings are based on a survey of eleven container terminals, operated by six major companies, in four different countries around the world. Though preceded by one other international study, it remains the most thorough welfare investigation into this sector to date. Whilst the report recognises health and safety progress, it also identifies significant areas for improvement.

According to the report’s survey of industry workers, 70% of respondents felt that their safety was at high risk. This was a higher incidence of harm than had been recorded under company reporting procedures. In fact, the overall conclusion of the study was that levels of worker injury are significantly underreported. It was proposed that reporting requirements are being undermined by the use of subcontracting and productivity targets.

In addition, the study identified a lack of provision for gender; few measures, if any, address specific female requirements. It also found there to be a focus on immediate safety risks as opposed to longer term health effects. This was said to be generally caused by evaluations which placed emphasis on short-term performance.

The report recommends that steps be taken to counter the “masking of poor occupational health and safety culture”. It calls for the regular review of health and safety systems, with the authors reminding businesses that, “Good health and safety not only helps save lives, it also sustains business and is an investment, not a cost”.