Guide for unpacking shipping containers

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3. Key principles

Key principles

  • Always establish a plan for safe unpacking before doing anything else.
  • If the load has shifted or appears precarious or unsafe, don’t enter the container.
  • Never allow workers inside the container if there is any risk of objects moving and trapping them.
  • Never allow workers inside the container if there is a chemical spill.
  • Never allow people and mobile plant to operate inside containers at the same time.
  • Avoid working alone inside containers.
  • Continue to assess the load for risks as you unpack.  If conditions change, don’t risk it.  Stop, conduct a risk assessment and replan the work taking all reasonable precautions.
  • Never stand near a load that is unsecured. For example, sheet material on an A-frame.
  • Where practicable, use mechanical aids over manual handling. For example, a conveyor.
  • Ensure workers who are unpacking containers are trained, supervised and competent.  This will help them to select the right work processes that have the lowest risk, choose appropriate equipment and know when to call for assistance if safety is unclear or jeopardised.
  • Ask for help if you don’t have the equipment or expertise to safely unpack a container.  If necessary engage specialists to do the unpacking.
  • Ensure workers wear appropriate PPE when emptying the container.