Accident Advisory: Worker fell off cargo container

22 Aug 2019

Ref No.: 220819 (1)

UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members

Accident Advisory: Worker fell off cargo container

Ref: 1920033 WSH Alert Accident Notification dated 26 July 2019

On 8 July 2019 around 12pm, a worker was tasked to shift cartons of empty plastic bottles within a cargo container on a trailer in preparation for unloading by a forklift. While shifting the cartons, the worker fell backwards over the edge of the cargo container and landed on the ground. The worker was conveyed to the hospital where he subsequently succumbed to his injuries.


Stakeholders such as occupiers, principals, employers and contractors in control of similar workplaces and work activities are advised to consider the following risk control measures to prevent similar accidents:

Safe Container Packing

  • Work with the upstream supplier(s) of goods (and all involved in the supply chain) to ensure that the container goods are packed such that unpacking can be carried out safely.
  • Request from the respective suppliers for a container packing plan to provide information on the contents of the container such as the list of goods, the weight of each item, the arrangement of goods inside the container as well as the unpacking plan.

Safe Work Environment

  • Where possible, eliminate the need for work at height while carrying out container unpacking. This can be achieved by unpacking only when the cargo container is placed on the ground, or when the elevated cargo container is unpacked at a suitable unloading bay with the unloading platform at the same level as the elevated cargo container.
  • Should there be a need for container unpacking works at height, stakeholders should remind workers of the falling risk and to always adopt a safe work position away from the unprotected edge at the tail end of the container. Adhesive tape (in any bright colour) should be pasted at the edge of the container as well as 30 cm inside the container to serve as a visual reminder of the danger zone.

Safe Manual Handling

  • Establish and implement a safe work method for shifting of goods within the container.
  • If manual shifting is required as part of the unpacking process, pack in smaller packages (e.g. 20 kg per package) to reduce the weight and size of each item. Items that are too heavy will pose ergonomic risks to the worker leading to muscular strain and possible musculoskeletal disorders. Awkward posture and/or forceful exertion may also cause one to lose balance whilst carrying out manual shifting. Furthermore, the handling of bulky items may obstruct the worker’s vision, such that the worker is unable to see where he/she is walking, hence significantly raising the risk of a fall.
  • Assign sufficient manpower for handling of bulky or heavy loads.


Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment (RA) for all work activities to control any foreseeable risk that may arise when carrying out works within cargo containers. The RA should cover, but not limited to, the following areas:

  • Workers’ level of safety awareness when working near unprotected edges;
  • Workers’ ability to identify unprotected edges;
  • Workers’ level of safety awareness when working near unprotected edges;
  • Inadequate manpower for packing/unpacking of cargo container; and
  • Lack of supervision for packing/unpacking work activities.


  1. Workplace Safety and Health Act
  2. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations
  3. Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations
  4. Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013
  5. Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
  6. SS569: 2011 Code of Practice for Manual Handling
  7. WSH Guidelines for Safe Loading on Vehicles
  8. WSH Guidelines for Improving Ergonomics in the Workplace
  9. Safe Work Australia’s Information Sheet on Managing Risks when Unpacking Shipping Containers
  10. Port Skills and Safety’s SIP 003 – Guidance on Container Handling

Information on the accident is based on preliminary investigations by the Ministry of Manpower as at
13 August 2019. This may be subject to change as investigations are still on-going. Please also note that the recommendations provided here are not exhaustive and they are meant to enhance workplace safety and health so that a recurrence may be prevented. The information and recommendations provided are not to be construed as implying any liability on any party nor should it be taken to encapsulate all the responsibilities and obligations under the law.