Avoiding Workplace Injuries

Avoiding Workplace Injuries


By Lori Musser

Protecting life and property all along a project cargo supply chain is an industry mantra, but only a few special companies live up to the promise, day in and day out.

In April 2018, the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association announced annual safety award winners. Zero Accidents awards were given to eight member companies in transportation, and 12 in crane and rigging. Breakbulk asked some of the award winners for the secrets to their success.

Robert M. Hall, director of strategic planning for Kansas-based Wilkerson Crane Rental, identified three drivers that facilitate complex tasks in an extraordinarily safe manner: communication, equipment and people.

“The more we talk about safety, the less we talk about accidents,” Hall said. Discussing ways to be safe, sharing near-miss learning experiences, and soliciting ideas from customers and employees is welcomed and encouraged.

Operating late-model equipment is one important strategy, allowing Wilkerson to “utilize the fleet as the manufacturer intended,” and proper maintenance is another, with “daily fleet inspections to proactively address small concerns before they cause larger issues.”

More than any other factor, Hall credits people for Wilkerson’s safety record. If you are going to be successful, consistent dedication and effort from your team is required, he said.

“Not only do our operators, mechanics, drivers and administrative staff have years of experience, most of them grew up in this industry and are aware of the responsibility required to ensure everyone comes home to their families at the end of the day,” he said. “ ‘Being Raised Right’ is more than just a tag line, it’s a way of life.”

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Safety’s Real Price Tag

Logging many moves per year without accident comes at a price, however. Jim Vitez, president of Pennsylvania-based specialized carrier and rigging company KMX International, described safety as a corporate asset: “It has definable, measurable returns for KMX’s employees and customers. Safety is a mindset, a practice, an operational priority established and supported by senior management.”

In addition to meetings, training, audits, in-truck cameras, electronic logs, and a best practices agenda, KMX offers a quarterly safety incentive to employees. After its employees, the company said that safety is its most important asset. One of KMX’s best practices, Vitez said, is to discuss and learn from near misses.

While there will always be factors beyond control, being prepared is a given for safety-minded companies.

Gary Hewitt, group HSQE manager for UK-based heavy-lift company ALE, said: “ALE is a responsible business with the health, safety and well-being of people and their surrounding environment as our most important concern.”

Core reporting systems and robust business assurance processes help mitigate industry risks, he said. ALE works to influence clients and subcontractors in a unified approach to achieving an incident and injury-free mindset.

“In order to achieve this, we have adopted and enhanced many of the leading data systems … as well as processes and training, including ALE’s vocational Standard Scheme of Training and Supervisor Development Program, which are seen as industry best practice,” Hewitt said.

Setting standards helps set the pace at ALE. It is fully compliant with ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001, and works closely with clients to engineer the risks out of the project in advance, Hewitt said.

ALE was recently selected as the contractor demonstrating best safety performance at the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor, Malaysia. It relocated nine 1,850-tonne port cranes, using 88-axle lines of SPMT and two transport beams. Planned meticulously over a month, each crane was transported across the wharf and lowered precisely into its new position, within a tight work schedule and without disruption to terminal operations. The project was safely completed in 10 days, four days ahead of schedule.


Being Prepared

At Perkins STC, Compliance Manager Melissa Hovey said safety will always be top priority. Planning and preparation are imperative.

“We are a process-driven organization, and have developed and implemented processes that … ensure the safety of our crews, the general public, and the cargo …” she said. “We look at each project and every route (regardless of how many times we have used it) as a unique and new opportunity to continue to improve.”

Keeping its workforce in tip-top shape, Hovey said Perkins is committed to career-long training, in-field and in-classroom. It dedicates a field superintendent to accompany every project move, and teams carefully plan routes, permits and partnerships with state and local entities to ensure compliance while moving safely and expeditiously. A tailgate meeting is held daily to review routes and expectations, identify potential risks and discuss preventative measures to mitigate.

While these activities may not be unique, they are powerfully effective when coupled with the company’s stop-load policy. Any employee may stop the movement of a load, at any time, if they feel the safety of the public, themselves, their fellow team members, or the cargo is being compromised, said Hovey. Empowering employees to that level has helped Perkins earn its zero-accident designation.


Technological Advantage

Netherlands-based Enerpac Heavy Lifting Technology BV offers safe operations in part through innovation. Its new JS-Series Jack-Up system – a hydraulically-raised, mechanically locked, multi-point lifting system typically comprises four or more jack-up towers. The lifting frame of each tower contains four hydraulic cylinders, which lift and stack steel barrels. The load is lifted in increments as barrels are inserted via an automated system and stacked, forming the lifting towers. Managed by a single operator, each tower’s lifting and lowering operations occur simultaneously, while the Jack-Up’s synchronous technology maintains the balance of the load.

David Owen, spokesperson for Enerpac, said the system provides a high degree of operational safety, and increased positional accuracy and load transfer control as compared with other techniques and technologies. It reduces the need for personnel to work at height, enabling more advanced assembly at ground level. The company said mobilization costs and on-site footprint requirements are significantly reduced. The Jack-Up system also offers greater stability and tolerance to windy conditions than equivalent-capacity cranes.

Owen said: “Safety is paramount in the design and operation of Enerpac heavy-lift systems,” and cited three critical safety elements: adherence to international codes and standards for construction and safe operation, the controlled operation of synchronous lifting systems, and the construction of lifting systems that are self-contained.

Avoiding workplace accidents in an industry whose workplace is by definition constantly changing, is a challenge. Companies that put safety first do so actively, with programs, policies, innovations, incentives and penalties of various sorts in place. Their success sets the standard for the industry.


Based in the U.S., Lori Musser is a veteran shipping industry writer.

Photo credit: Enerpac



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