Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Ports' Safety Organisation (P 07)



  1.1  The Ports' Safety Organisation welcomes the opportunity to assist the Transport Sub-Committee in its inquiry into Opportunities and Development Prospects at Major Ports.

  1.2  The Ports' Safety Organisation (PSO) was established in 1992 and represents the ports of Britain and Ireland on health and safety matters. All other subjects, including professional marine matters and environmental concerns are dealt with by the other industry trade associations—British Ports Association, UK Association of Private Terminal Operators and UK Major Ports Group. General training is dealt with by the NTO for the industry British Ports Industry Training Ltd. Safety in port workplaces, therefore, which is the subject of Chapter 4.1 of Modern Ports comes fully within the PSO's remit.

  1.3  This Memorandum has been prepared by PSO and has been written as a supplement to Chapter 4.1 of Modern Ports. It aims to give a fuller explanation of how the industry is organised for health and safety and to indicate how the industry proposes to respond to the recent Government initiatives.


  2.1  It has always been recognised that dock operations have inherent dangers.

  2.2  The first set of Docks Regulations was adopted in 1904 following a comprehensive report by the Factory Inspectorate written in 1899. This was the first set of such Regulations made anywhere in the world.

  2.3  Further Regulations followed in 1925, 1934 and 1988, the last two reflecting international standards adopted by the International Labour Office (ILO).

  2.4  In the last 40 years the ports and shipping industries have been the subject of a complete revolution in the way in which cargo is packaged, handled and carried by sea and this has had a profound effect on all aspects of port operations including health and safety issues.

  2.5  Development of freight containers, roll on-roll off movements, packaged timber and other cargo handling improvements has led to a very different type of port area. This has a very different operational scenario and very different hazards and risks.

  2.6  The port and shipping industries started a process of dynamic change that has continued throughout the past 40 years and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. That process, of necessity, has involved, and will continue to involve, health and safety issues.

  2.7  At the same time, general expectations regarding health and safety at work have increased and there is a much higher profile for the subject now than there was 40 years ago. This has affected the ports industry as much as any other.

  2.8  A further development has been the increasing modernisation of health and safety workplace laws, coupled with the adoption of a range of relevant Directives by the European Union and their subsequent reflection in UK statutes. Most of these general health and safety laws have application in a port area.

  2.9  This has resulted in a considerable number of new or revised health and safety workplace laws, each of which has to be considered at the consultation stage (sometimes pre-consultation as well) before being assimilated and compliance achieved once adopted.

  2.10  The consequence for the ports industry has been greatly increased health and safety activity across the board and a great deal of effort has been made throughout the industry at all levels to contain and to reduce accidents.

  2.11  The changes in working methods and the increased efforts to reduce accidents have together resulted in current accident rates being about 30 per cent of what they were 30 years ago.

  2.12  Nevertheless, it is accepted that there is still room for improvement. The joint initiatives posed by the Government's Revitalising Health and Safety Strategy Statement and Modern Ports are, accordingly, welcomed and we will be glad to cooperate with them.


  3.1  The industry has a strong organisation for health and safety based upon three elements—the National Health and Safety Committee (NHSC), the safety specialists' group (APO's Group) and the Ports' Safety Organisation (PSO).

  3.2  Although there have been several reviews of its remit, composition and activity, the NHSC has continued since 1965, when it was first established.

  3.3  It meets every six months in London and its core membership consists of four line managers, four full time safety advisers and four trades union officials. Both HSE, MCA and more recently DETR have ex officio positions and HSE has accepted that NHSC is equivalent to its Industrial Advisory Committees.

  3.4  The APO's Group consists of full time safety staff and those who have a special responsibility for safety in addition to other responsibilities. It has regular meetings, with the 79th having been held in Grimsby on 10 January 2001. A total of 59 persons attended, including the national HSE official dealing with docks.

  3.5  Three such meetings are held around the UK every year with attendances regularly totally over 40 people. The meetings are very proactive, practical and participative and it is worth noting that HSE officials have commented on the openness of the industry in regard to sharing accident, dangerous occurrence and prevention experiences so that the industry as a whole may benefit.

  3.6  The third element in the organisation and arrangements is the PSO. This was set up at the end of 1992 at the specific request of many members of the British Ports Federation (which was then in the process of being wound-up).

  3.7  PSO is a non-profit private limited company, dedicated solely to the cause of health and safety in the ports industry. It is totally independent, funded solely by the industry and acts as a trade association. It currently employs four people.

  3.8  Its prime function is to consult and represent the industry to Government Departments and Agencies, to inform and advise, to offer specific safety related training courses and publications and to operate a technical information and advice service.

  3.9  It organises the NHSC and APO meetings, standing work groups, special work groups, panels, first aid competitions and conferences and safety related courses, conferences, workshops, seminars and presentations. It publishes a monthly Executive Update for all Chief Executives, a bi-monthly newsletter for all members, regular information papers for full members (1,183 issued in the period 1993-2000) and a variety of pocket cards, advice leaflets, booklets and other documents. It also offers short term consultancy services to members. It currently has 137 member companies covering between them over 250 ports and port companies.

  3.10  Apart from a small number in the Irish Republic and a smaller number in other countries, the membership consists of port authorities, stevedores, terminal operators, cargo handling companies, shipping companies with shore based operations, labour supply companies, training companies and container bases operating in the UK.

  3.11  PSO's funding is derived solely from the industry, with members' subscriptions on an annual basis being supplemented by training, publications and consultancy activities.

  3.12  PSO works closely with HSE at various levels, and to a lesser extent MCA, and it is believed that a partnership approach to health and safety in the port industry has existed for a number of years.

  3.13  PSO also liaises closely with other Trade Associations in the ports industry.

  3.14  It is believed that this arrangement is unique within industry generally.

  3.15  In addition to these national activities, considerable efforts are being made all the time by individual companies to improve safety.

  3.16  The consequence of all of these arrangements is that there is significantly more health and safety activity in the ports industry now than probably at any time in the past.

  3.17  PSO is also involved with international work involving the UN Agencies ILO and IMO, the International Association of Ports and Harbours, the International Standards Organisation and the International Cargo Handling Coordination Association. It is also involved with the Federation of European Private Terminal Operators based in Brussels.

  3.18  This involvement enables PSO to monitor and influence relevant international rules and standards and to keep its members fully informed of relevant activities.

  3.19  It is, accordingly, believed that there are structures in place to enable the health and safety situation to be improved. There has existed for some years a close partnership between the industry and HSE/MCA and we welcome the support which Modern Ports has given to those arrangements.


  4.1  The comprehensive national effort detailed above will continue.

  4.2  At the same time, the new Government initiatives are welcomed and a strategy has been adopted to plan a proper response.

  4.3  A high level Conference is being organised by PSO involving the Deputy Prime Minister and senior officials from DETR, HSC and HSE. This is aimed at Directors and senior managers in the industry and will be held on 12 March 2001.

  4.4  An overall strategy for responding to the twin challenge of the Revitalising Strategy Statement and Modern Ports has been approved by the NHSC. The core of this is the establishment of a PSO special work group to draw up suitable targets and action plans to achieve them. This group is currently in the course of being formed and the deadline is to complete its work before the next meeting of the NHSC in May.

  4.5  The special work group will consider various initiatives taken by other industries and determine what is appropriate and practical for the ports industry.

  4.6  It is expected that this work will result in targets and action plans being adopted and put into effect.

  4.7  Similar initiatives in other industries have resulted in considerable reductions in general accident levels and it is hoped that the special initiatives, together with the on-going national programme, will achieve a similar result in the ports industry.


  5.1  The nature of dock operations in relation to accidents has long been recognised.

  5.2  The considerable changes in the ways in which cargo is packaged, handled and carried have radically changed the way in which dock operations are carried out. This has resulted in fundamental changes to health and safety concerns, with many of the older issues having lesser significance but with new risks arising.

  5.3  Consequently, the potential for accidents remains whilst the hazards now differ.

  5.4  The industry is fully aware of the health and safety situation and its implications and it is well organised at national level to respond to that. That organisation works in a partnership approach with the Government Agencies and the Trades Unions.

  5.5  Whilst accidents and accident rates have decreased considerably, it is accepted that there is still room for improvement.

  5.6  In partnership with the Government and its Agencies, a major initiative is being developed to further improve the situation. This will be directed strongly at all levels of management.

  5.7  A major conference has been organised to address the issue and the industry is currently developing action plans, together with targets, aimed at reducing the levels over a period of time.

  5.8  We would be pleased to supply the Committee with any further information which it may require in connection with its inquiry.

Ports' Safety Organisation

17 January 2001

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