VIC: safety alert issued over shipping containers and extreme weather events

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Saturday, 22 January, 2022 - 12:00
Policy & legislation

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert highlighting the importance of safely stacking shipping containers to prevent them from dislodging and falling during extreme weather events.

There have been many incidents involving containers, including containers stacked for advertising, which have become dislodged and fallen.

Some have resulted in multiple containers toppling over causing a domino effect across the site, with containers landing on footpaths and roads.

These incidents placed employees and members of the public at significant risk of serious or fatal injuries.

Some of the common causes where stacked containers (empty or loaded) can become dislodged and fall, include:

  • extreme weather events with strong winds or storm fronts that create a sail affect with or against the container
  • changes in wind speed and direction
  • unsafe stacking methods, stacks not tiered along the boundaries
  • poor site conditions, for example, unstable or uneven ground
  • incorrect use of mobile plant, for example, using lifting equipment that is not suitable for the task or faulty lifting equipment
  • incorrect stacking practices, for example, containers that are not stacked evenly and/or are not stacked straight
  • inadequate connection points between containers
  • vibrations or impacts with mobile plant

The alert recommended a number of ways to control risks and said a risk assessment should be undertaken to identify the hazards and risks associated with container stacks.

The risk assessment should determine the fall zone in the event a container becomes dislodged or falls.

Advice should also be obtained from a competent person (such as an engineer) to ensure the stability of shipping container stacks is maintained, as each site will have unique factors affecting the stability of a stack during extreme weather or high wind events.

The alert also noted extreme weather conditions, high wind speeds and storm fronts are common in Victoria, and wind speeds and weather forecasts should be regularly monitored.

Before retrieving a fallen container, the alert said a risk assessment should be undertaken to identify the hazards and control risks.