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Terminal Safety: Processes and Advancements, Issues and Opportunities

Safety at front gates and within terminals has been, and continues to be, an ongoing issue at intermodal facilities. What are some of the methods that terminal operators can use to ensure and maintain safety at such facilities?

One important measure is to cultivate and foster an overall culture of safety at terminals. But how can this be done?

"Three effective measures I've found are training, safety teams and safety meetings," South Carolina Ports Authority Safety and MTSA Compliance Manager Gene Coker said. "We introduce all our new hires to our safety program as it relates to our operations. In addition to the OSHA-required training, we incorporate safety training into our various positions. We hold monthly and quarterly safety meetings with our employees and stakeholders."

REMPREX Vice President of Optimization, Engineering & Mechanical Gerry Bisaillon added that culture can be a challenge to cultivate, especially with drivers who may not visit the terminal often. But despite this, he added, culture can be encouraged and fostered by terminal employees, and by the condition of the terminal.

"If a terminal demonstrates that it has a culture of safety – i.e., employees all following rules, wearing appropriate personal protective gear; work equipment in good repair, such as all lights working, seatbelts working, windshields clean and clear and not broken; and the terminal is well cared for; all these things contribute to the culture."

"When drivers are immersed in that culture, they are much more likely to adopt and promote the culture, than if they are immersed in a terminal that is dark, full of potholes, with terminal employees violating safety rules without reproach."

"Fostering a safety culture at a terminal is very much about empowering employees to identify safety hazards and risks, but most importantly, taking actions to address those risks. Management must support the culture and demonstrate the support by taking action on important safety concerns. Things like providing new and clean PPE when old PPE is dirty and worn out. Fixing equipment quickly and timely. Repairing terminal issues. This promotes and cultivates a safety culture."

Prevention Measures

What can be done to prevent or reduce worker slips, trips and falls at intermodal terminals?

One way, Coker said, is educating employees about the seriousness of the hazard.

"Find new innovative ways to communicate it," he said. "One way that we have incorporated this message is through digital media. We have monitors strategically placed throughout our facilities that regularly display safety and health bulletins."

Also relying on employee education is CSX Intermodal Terminals, which in December released a safety plan that stresses worker empowerment and accountability.

'The technological advances in safety management software have greatly improved over the years. Safety professionals have an ample amount of programs to select from, which will significantly enhance their ability to improve their safety program.'
Gene Coker
South Carolina Ports Authority

"Our team members will be trained the right way, not punished the wrong way," CSX Director of Terminal Operations Scott Movshin said in a statement. "Accountability and alignment are built from the bottom up through training and coaching. We can spend less time dealing with discipline and remediation by driving this message through the organization."

Bisaillon said that communication is important, but also endorsed using a consistent, multi-faceted approach that includes identifying the hazard, removing the hazard if possible, mitigating the hazard, and educating the workforce of the hazard and process to deal with it.

"Educate – inform workforce during regular safety briefings or job briefings of the hazard and what has been done," he said. "Advise on proper procedures/notifications if hazard were to occur again. Provide employees encouragement and education that they can, should communicate the existence of hazards to coworkers and to managers for corrective actions."

Reducing Distractions

Regarding ways to cut down on distractions in terminals to improve safety, Bisaillon stated that properly designed facilities can provide a reduced number of sensory inputs to drivers, such as: controlled traffic flow; signs in good condition and with clear instructions; and places for drivers to safely perform tasks other than driving, i.e., parking areas or designated areas to perform administrative functions like log book updates, inspection reports, or paperwork verification.

"Terminals that have clearly marked parking stalls, along with accurate inventory reporting will greatly assist in drivers focusing on the route being traveled vs. looking for a container or chassis while eyes are not on path," he explained. "When eyes aren’t on path, collisions can occur, as well as injury to driver and to others in the area."

"Clearly marked speed limits, along with enforcement and discipline – such as banning – will assist in keeping distractions to a minimum," he continued.

Coker remarked that one of my most significant challenges as the South Carolina Ports Authority’s safety manager is getting employees to realize the dangers of handheld devices – phones, hands down, are the biggest distraction for any company.

"They are embedded in our lives," he said of mobile devices. "We have become so dependent on them that we easily tune out everything around us. Again, this is where education plays a significant role in migrating this hazard. Although we have strict policies against our employees using mobile phones when driving or operating equipment, the policies governing the use of phones on the job are only as effective as the employee’s adherence and the disciplinary measures used to control its abuse."

Using Technology

Although some technological advances, such as the aforementioned mobile devices are seen by some as distractions, there are also some types of tech that can actually improve worker safety in a terminal environment.

"The technological advances in safety management software have greatly improved over the years," Coker remarked. "Safety professionals have an ample amount of programs to select from, which will significantly enhance their ability to improve their safety program."

Case in point, he said, was that the Port Authority recently purchased a program that provides real-time data and metrics from incidents.

"From this data, we can identify areas that we can focus on to improve our safety," Coker explained.

"Over the recent years, many advances in technology help to assist worker safety," Bisaillon added. "Everything from radar for sensing speed, to lidar for detecting proximity to other objects, and including onboard vehicle systems such as cameras, and g-force sensors can contribute to worker safety."

"Vehicle systems can also report on equipment condition, and alert to critical conditions that could present a hazard to an employee – under or over inflated tires, overpressure in hydraulic systems, onboard scale to prevent lifting loads in excess of machine safe capacity," he explained.

"Additional technologies such as geo-fencing and identifying restricted areas can also reduce risks and improve safety by limiting speeds of vehicles through areas where there are people on the ground such as roadability and fueling areas," he continued. "Some vehicles even have technology to detect sleepy or distracted driving and can provide alerting to the driver and management of those occurrences."

Enhancement Measures

The experts interviewed by Intermodal Insights said there’s definitely a role for government and/or training schools when it comes to enhancing safety.

"The one government agency I turn to often is OSHA," Coker said. "OSHA has a robust website full of information that not only helps businesses establish a safety program but provides tons of information on ways to improve their safety program."

Bisaillon said that education by training schools and government enforcement are critical elements to enhancing safety on terminals. Among the examples he gave were the roadability regulations designed to address chassis condition and over-the-road safety and the hours-of-service rules designed to reduce over-the-road crashes due to driver fatigue.

"While these are difficult changes for the industry, there is no question that the results have improved safety," he remarked. "Chassis condition have improved, and incidents associated with chassis failures have been reduced. Driver-caused crashes are down too due to the requirements around hours of service, and the duty to report electronically."

"I think further regulatory changes can speed up changes needed in the industry enhancing safety," he added. "Elimination of multi-piece rims would increase safety for mechanics, drivers and the public. Phasing those out sooner would be beneficial." Training schools can also promote and enhance safety," he continued. "Training drivers, mechanics, terminal workers on what conditions and risks to look out for, and how to mitigate them can reduce the incident counts across the industry."

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