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Managing risks in stevedoring

This Code of Practice is the current approved Code for South Australia. Safe Work Australia may have adopted more recent, updated Model Codes which may be awaiting consultation and endorsement by SafeWork SA.

The PDF icon Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice should be used in conjunction with South Australia’s work health and safety laws and other relevant legislation, including:

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Safety and Health in Ports - Code of Practice provides detailed information on port operations. It may also be used as guidance to help you understand and manage stevedoring risks.

Stevedoring operations

Stevedoring operations are diverse, and may include container terminals, bulk and general stevedoring facilities where vessels are loaded and unloaded, cargo received and delivered, and wharves used for stacking and storing.

If you’re a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) or other duty holder involved in such operations, or you’ve management or control of any workplace where stevedoring operations are carried out (eg ship owners, port authorities), the Code provides practical advice on managing health and safety risks arising from your business or undertaking.

You have a primary duty of care to manage risks associated with stevedoring or, if that is not reasonably practicable, to minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable. You also have specific requirements to manage other likely risks in your industry such as noise, hazardous manual tasks, falls, hazardous chemicals and plant.

General stevedoring activities covered in the Code may include:

  • loading and unloading of vessel cargo (eg containers, cars)
  • loading and unloading of non-containerised cargo transported as individual pieces due to being oversized and/or overweight (eg steel, oil and gas equipment, construction equipment, wind towers)
  • roll on/roll off loading and unloading of cargo via ramps to vessels (eg cars, bulldozers)
  • bulk loading and unloading of products not separately packaged but rather loaded in bulk onto a ship (eg grain, liquids, iron ore, coal)
  • passenger vessels.

Risk management

The risk management process involves four steps:

  1. Identify any problems – this is known as hazard identification
  2. Determine the level of risk to workers and others as a result of these problems – this is known as risk assessment
  3. Decide what needs to be done about the problems and eliminate or minimise them by implementing control measures – this is known as risk control.
  4. Review the risk control measures to make sure they are effective and working as planned.

Refer to pages 10-14 of the PDF icon Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice for more information.

PCBUs must share information and consult on decisions where workers are likely to be directly affected by a work health and safety matter.

Hazards and control measures


Stevedoring operations should be planned before the cargo arrives to identify potential hazards, assess risks and determine appropriate control measures. This should be done in consultation with relevant parties, which may include workers, the port authority, shipping agents or companies, transport companies and other duty holders in the supply chain.

An emergency plan should be prepared and first aid arrangements should be in place.

Refer to pages 15-16 of the PDF icon Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice for more information.


Before commencing stevedoring operations a vessel inspection should be carried out to identify potential risks. Access routes and the condition of the work area should be assessed before starting work and then monitored during the loading and discharge process.

There are also specific requirements under the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) (the WHS Regulations) for the inspection of plant, including cargo gear and cranes.

Refer to pages 17-18 of the PDF icon Managing risks of stevedoring - Code of Practice for more information.

Working environment

PCBUs need to consider and assess the diversity of working environments in stevedoring and ensure they are safe (eg workplace layout, entries and exits, lighting, ventilation, exposure to weather extremes).

The Code provides specific information on:

  • gangways
  • housekeeping
  • lighting
  • air quality
  • weather conditions
  • traffic management
  • managing the risk of falls and falling objects
  • noise
  • managing fatigue.

Refer to pages 19-27 of the PDF icon Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice for more information.

Handling loads and cargo

Safe work procedures should be in place for work carried out in loading and unloading. If the procedures do not address the hazards, then a risk assessment should be carried out.

Suspended loads

Handling suspended loads is a high risk activity involving various plant, including mobile, vessel and gantry cranes, forklifts and other specialised cargo handling equipment. A risk assessment should be carried out.

Lashing and unlashing containers

Requirements for vessel masters to ensure cargo is adequately secured are set out in Marine Order 42: Cargo stowage and securing.

Ships’ holds

Working atmosphere and fall prevention need to be considered for work in ships’ holds. Workers should be provided with specific information, instruction and training to handle cargo safely. The work environment should be safe for plant to operate and clear of obstructions and risks of falling cargo. There should be a system to identify safe zones for workers, taking into account crane operations and mobile plant operating in the hold.

Types of cargo

Wires, ropes, chains and lifting gear should be inspected before handling cargo.

Storage, stowage and securing of cargo

Non-containerised cargo (eg coils, pipes, beams) should be stored or stowed in stable stacks. Cargo

can be moved repeatedly during loading, discharging and storage, creating new risks or changing already identified risks. Ongoing risk management is needed to ensure these risks are eliminated or minimised.

Refer to pages 28-36 of the PDF icon Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice for more information.

Plant and equipment

The WHS Regulations include specific duties for PCBUs with management or control of plant to manage associated health and safety risks, as well as requirements for powered mobile plant and plant that lift or suspend loads.

Stevedoring operations include the use of powered mobile plant (eg mobile cranes, reach stackers, straddle carriers, forklifts).

Lifting equipment (eg spreaders, slings and hooks) used on shore and on board vessels to raise, suspend and lower loads should be well maintained and regularly inspected and tested. Maintenance records for shipboard cranes should be checked and any issues with the lifting equipment corrected before they are used.

Refer to pages 37-42 of the PDF icon Managing risks in stevedoring - Code of Practice for more information.