Cargo Worker Suffers Crushed Leg In Container Accident

A Cargo Worker In Essex Suffered Severe Leg Injuries In A Preventable Docking Accident In Harwich


A cargo company in Essex has been prosecuted over an incident in which one of its workers suffered life-changing leg injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began an investigation after a 26-year-old man from Felixstowe in Suffolk suffered several fractures and tissue injuries to his lower leg after a container fell on it.

He was injured in October 2012 when he was using the crane and chains of a ship to unload containers at one of Harwich Dock Company's berths at the Port of Harwich. He was standing on a platform trying to free a jammed container when it moved and trapped him against the handrail, causing the crush injuries.

An HSE investigation discovered that the organisation did not have a procedure in place for freeing stuck containers and if it had it would have involved the worker being removed from the area to a safe spot. It also found such a plan would include a clear chain of command and control of the crane movements. The HSE established that the company had failed in all these areas.

In addition to this, the investigation also revealed the firm was involved in unsafe practices regarding working at height, with staff often climbing onto containers to attach chains without safety harnesses - in breach of the company's own policy.

HSE inspector Toni Drury remarked: “The risk of containers jamming is well-known in the port industry. There should have been a clear procedure known to the workers, including keeping people clear of the jammed container and having one individual designated to manage operations."

Harwich Dock Company pleaded guilty at Harwich Crown Court to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £15,000 with £14,761 costs.

Last month saw the HSE issuing a new code of practice for safety in the docking industry, which it developed in conjunction with Port Skills and Safety and trade union Unite.

The new Approved Code of Practice replaces previous guidance issued in 1988 and is designed to help companies understand how to meet their obligations under the 1974 Health and Safety Act, including issues like lifting and falls from height.

Expert Opinion
Incidents involving machinery in the workplace are all too common and there are strict health and safety guidelines to keep workers safe in relation to the use of such equipment.

“The victim has been left with serious injuries to his legs which will probably affect him and his ability to work for the rest of his life.

“In this case a number of failings were found through the HSE investigation and these put this worker and his colleagues at risk of serious injuries. Safety guidelines need to be enforced by all employers to prevent injury in the workplace.”
Stephen Nye, Partner