“Terminal automation is often touted as a way to achieve substantial safety benefits,” says Mark Sisson, a senior analyst with Oakland, CA-based AECOM.
Sisson is a big proponent of automated guided vehicles (AGVs). “With AGVs in place, no tractor drivers are needed, and therefore all associated driver injuries are eliminated. With manned shuttle operations, approximately half the number of vehicles would be required compared to a conventional terminal, so injuries could be expected to decline by half as well,” Sisson wrote recently in Port Technology International.
Simply put, fewer workers mean fewer injuries. Implementing more automation throughout the terminal would reduce the number of mechanics and foremen required on the job as well.
“Spreaders, for example, require much less maintenance in automated terminals because the automated cranes always set containers down gently. A 25 percent reduction in injuries is estimated, based on anecdotal evidence from representative terminals,” states Sisson. In addition, “With automated terminals and automatic container positioning, far fewer supervisors will be required, and injury rates should decline accordingly. Therefore, the estimated reduction in injuries to supervisory staff is 67 percent with AGVs, or 50 percent with shuttles in place.”
Accidents are costly not only when measured with human lives, but in dollar value too.
In July, a California judge upheld a $14 million verdict against SSA Marine Terminals at the Port of Long Beach for negligence in an accident that nearly crushed a truck driver to death. Specifically, the jury found that poor supervision of a crane operator and possible drug use on the job led to a 25,000-pound container falling on the driver’s cab.
Recently, at the Port of Beaumont (Texas), two longshoremen filed a suit against their employer, Gearbulk & SSA Gulf Inc. for severe neck injuries caused when a beam fell on them. The lawsuit claims the employer failed to provide a safe place to work and adequate equipment.
Overall, while great strides have been made to improve safety throughout the supply chain, the nature of transportation-related work is such that injuries on the job will never be completely eliminated. The goal is to remain vigilant about workplace safety, which oftentimes means starting with the fundamentals. d