Pedestrian Safety in Maritime Environments: Keeping Everyone Safe and Productive

Pedestrian Safety in Maritime Environments: Keeping Everyone Safe and Productive

Workers on foot, or “pedestrians,” are a common in maritime facilities. Be it a welder walking to the deck plates, a longshoreman on the pier apron hooking up cargo, or someone working at a marine construction site, everyone needs to be aware of the hazard of being stuck by or run over by an industrial vehicle.

Pedestrian safety is important in any work environment, but the risk factors increase significantly in shipyards, marine terminals, construction sites and other maritime-related worksites. For example, a recent seven-year study showed 59% of all marine cargo handling fatalities were related to vehicle incidents.  

Employees often may not fully understand all the potential hazards involved when the pedestrian and industrial vehicle interface, so it is imperative that employers inform, train and enforce pedestrian safety rules to protect employees when it comes to any potential pedestrian hazards in the workplace.


Who is a Pedestrian in a Maritime Working Environment?
In this context, a pedestrian is any person on foot who is working in, managing or visiting any type of maritime facility. Workers can include longshoremen, shipyard workers, marine construction employees and may also include contract labor, security guards and visitors to the work environment.

It may be necessary for workers on foot to be adjacent to cargo handling forklifts, all-terrain forklifts, container handling equipment and other industrial vehicles.  With such a broad range of maritime work that may be performed near pedestrians, it is critical to establish and follow specific safety standards for both vehicle operators and pedestrians.


What are the Most Common Pedestrian Hazards in a Maritime Setting?
Employers at maritime facilities must stay vigilant about how to approach pedestrian safety, but they must first understand what the risks are and where they lie. 

The following examples describe maritime-related vehicle pedestrian incidents that resulted in fatalities:

  • A forklift struck and killed a cargo clerk as he exited a warehouse and walked around a container. The forklift operator was transporting a load of paper rolls that obstructed his view.
  • A forklift struck and killed a worker after handling paperwork to the operator. As the worker walked away from the forklift, the operator made a U-turn and struck the worker with the right front wheel of the forklift.
  • While operating a travel lift, a shipyard worker was struck by an over-the-road truck that was delivering supplies to the shipyard. The travel lift operator was walking next to the travel lift looking at the remote control and was not focused on his surroundings.
  • A shipyard leadman was struck and killed while directing the travel of an aerial boom lift. He was talking with another person, unaware that he was in the line of travel of the aerial lift. The operator of the aerial lift was in the up position and did not see the leadman below.
  • A worker for a marine construction company was struck by a skid steer at a job site. The worker was moving materials and standing too close to the skid steer.

Vehicle-related incidents like any one of these can happen for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Poorly maintained vehicles that have broken or missing safety equipment such as horns, mirrors, lights and brakes
  • Lack of signage to control pedestrian and vehicle interface
  • Poor lighting, especially at night and at times when shadows make pedestrians difficult to see
  • Improperly loaded equipment which make vehicles difficult to control
  • Talking on cell phones, texting or completing paperwork which may distract the operator and even the pedestrian
  • Inadequate vehicle operator training of the rules for working around pedestrians
  • Inadequate pedestrian safety training for working around industrial vehicles
  • Lack of personal protective equipment for pedestrians such as retro-reflective high visibility vests


What Can Waterfront Employers Do to Make Their Work Environment Safe for Pedestrians?
There are many ways for employers to keep a maritime work area safe for pedestrians.

  • Perform pre-shift vehicle safety inspections to reduce the risk of all incidents including pedestrian-related injury; remove vehicles with safety deficiencies
  • Ensure vehicles have safety features such as horns, lights, turn signals, back up alarms, mirrors and others
  • Vehicle operators must follow any posted speed limits and other traffic control signs
  • Install stop signs at main entrances and exits, blind intersections where visibility is impaired
  • Operators must not make shortcuts or U-turns in areas where pedestrians may not expect vehicles to be
  • If driving with a trailer or chassis, know the swing radius to avoid striking pedestrians
  • Pedestrians must also know the swing radius of forklifts and understand that the rear wheels of forklifts enable them to turn sharply and abruptly
  • Pedestrians walking near vehicles must make definite eye contact with operators
  • Pedestrians should avoid blind spots, and understand that they cannot be seen if they are in an operator’s blind spot
  • Pedestrians should avoid placing items (including personal items) on vehicles, which can cause them to be in the operator’s blind spot when they attempt to approach and retrieve the items


Are You Concerned About Pedestrian Safety in Your Facility?
You can never be too cautious when you consider all the risks in your maritime workspace. However, there are plenty of ways — in addition to those listed — to keep everyone under your care safe. For additional guidance on pedestrian safety at your waterfront site, contact your AEU Loss Control manager or click here to have someone contact you.


This article was originally published in the Longshore Insider on January 21, 2019.

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