Danger on the docks: Lessons learnt from personal injury claims

Shipping containers
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Docks and piers are vital hubs of maritime activity, but they can also be dangerous workplaces. Workers face a variety of hazards that can lead to serious injuries, sometimes even death.
This article explores some of the most common dock and pier accidents we see coming across through client claims and provides tips to keep workers safe.

Slips, trips, and falls

Wet surfaces, uneven flooring, careless strapping of cargo and poorly stored equipment all contribute to slips, trips, and falls – the leading cause of dock worker injuries. Proper footwear, clear walkways, neat strapping and good housekeeping are essential to prevent these accidents.

Falling and moving objects

Workers on docks are at risk of being struck by falling objects like cargo, tools, or machinery. Safe lifting practices, proper securing of loads, and wearing hard hats are crucial to mitigate this danger. One of most significant injuries we have supported a client with in recent years was caused by a steel wheely bin that had not been properly secured on top of a cargo boat prior to a storm. As the boat started rocking, the bin came crashing down on our client who was standing in front of the hull trap – pushing him down a 4 metre drop.

Crane and winch accidents

Crane and winch malfunctions can cause devastating accidents. Regular maintenance, proper training, and strict adherence to safety protocols are vital for safe operation.

Container accidents

Shifting containers pose a serious threat to dock workers. Proper inspection, secure lashing, and designated safe zones around cargo handling activities are essential.

Accidents involving vehicles: Forklifts, trucks, and other vehicles pose a significant hazard on docks. And not just vehicles on the dockside. Where vehicles are being delivered as cargo, they will often need to be driven on and off the ship, and the drivers may not be familiar with the controls of all of the makes and models that have to be moved. Clear traffic lanes, pedestrian walkways, and proper training for drivers are key to preventing crashes.


Exposed electrical wiring and equipment can cause serious electrical shock injuries. Regular inspections, proper grounding, and the use of GFCI outlets are essential safety measures.


Falls into the water can be life-threatening, especially in cold weather. Life jackets, proper fall protection equipment, and clear rescue procedures are crucial for worker safety.

Staying safe on the docks

By implementing these safety measures and fostering a culture of safety awareness, dock and pier workplaces can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Workers should be properly trained on safety protocols, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and report any unsafe conditions immediately. Management should also be careful not to impose unrealistic deadlines on the work needing to be done before a ship leaves port, in case it leads to compromises being taken in respect of the Port’s safety procedures.

At Enable Law we have a very experienced team of serious injury solicitors with specialist experience supporting clients that have suffered a workplace injury in a dockyard. If you or a loved one have been injured give us a call for free on 0800 044 8488 or fill in our contact form here so we can explore together ways we can help you secure compensation to access the rehabilitation and support you need to get your life back on track.

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