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17 April 2018

EU-OSHA calls new measures to protect port workers

On 10 April, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has released a new study that reviews the risks to workers when opening fumigated shipping containers. The study identifies significant gaps in preventive measures and makes recommendations that should be implemented to improve the safety and health of workers.

Each year, more than 600 million freight containers are shipped worldwide. These containers are frequently treated with pesticides to prevent damage to the goods. Agents used for this purpose have known toxic or irritant properties and can have long-term effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, for instance phosphine (PH3), methyl bromide (MeBr) and formaldehyde. Workers at ports who open these containers, for example during customs inspections, can be exposed to these harmful agents. The report indicates that this problem has been underestimated.

The report describes a number of problems including: fumigated containers are almost never labelled as fumigated ; insufficient safety procedures and risk assessments ; under-reporting of incidents of adverse health effects.

The report recommends to port workers not to open containers until a risk assessment concludes that it is safe to do so.

Source: EU-OSHA

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