1st September, 2021

Protecting lives, reducing risks: how lighting holds the key to safer ports

Ports and terminals are often regarded as one of the highest risk working environments. The daily hazards faced by workers including moving vehicles, mooring lights and unloading and loading cargo. Minimising risk is therefore paramount for smooth, safe and efficient operations and the safeguarding of lives.

Despite it being a vital element of safety, lighting is often overlooked. In fact, the majority of ports and terminals still use poor quality solutions, such as high-pressure sodium, metal halide, or other similarly dated technologies that can lead to diminished visibility and are prone to breaking.

Likewise, many lighting solutions are selected without factoring in a port or terminal’s extreme environmental conditions, such as high heat and high winds. The harsh saline, windy and in some cases, scorching environments of ports and terminals often causing lighting to quickly degrade and therefore can result in dangerous working environments.

To protect lives and reduce risks, many ports and terminals should consider reviewing their lighting infrastructure to see if any immediate improvements should be made. After all, it should not take the occurrence of a serious accident to prompt change.

A discussion for now

In a recent webinar on port safety with TOC, Mark Nailer, our Maritime Manager EMEA, discussed how lighting has progressed over the years, with LED lighting playing a major role in evolving safety, sustainability and operational efficiency in ports and terminals. He stated that LED lighting, as the superior lighting solution, must replace outdated lighting solutions to increase safety standards in the maritime industry and beyond. For example, outdated lighting solutions are a particular cause of accidents in ports and terminals during the night due to dimmer bulbs.

For owners and operators, switching to LED bulbs can also mean lighting lasts up to twenty times longer than standard forms of lighting, such as incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs. This further reduces the risk of accidents occurring, with less personnel required to carry out frequent and dangerous repairs.

Legal liability

In addition to the safety impact of poor lighting at ports and terminals, owners and operators should also be aware of the legal liability risks, with lighting sitting at the heart of port safety and insurance claims. Records from official accident investigations in terminals often refer to poor lighting as a contributory factor . Port and terminal owners, operators and insurance providers should urgently recognise the role that upgrading lighting could play in avoiding a significant pay out or even criminal prosecution.

By now, you may be asking, if the stakes are so high, why are the majority of global ports and terminals still using outdated lighting solutions?

In most cases, it is not apathy that causes lighting to be overlooked or not prioritised, but a lack of understanding about the advantages of upgrading solutions and concerns about potential disruptions to operations if existing systems aren’t faulty. This is further heightened by a lack of global standards for lighting levels in ports and terminals, which means terminal and port operators mandate their own criteria. The lack of alignment has resulted in varying degrees of quality and in some cases, completely insufficient lighting.

While the lack of standardisation makes it hard to measure performance, there are steps port and terminal owners and operators can take to mitigate risk, improve safety and efficiency, whilst avoiding costly legal battles. For example, investing in a health and safety ‘hotline’ to report concerns confidentially, regularly refresh how risk assessments are approached and on a practical level, checking lighting levels every six months will reduce the risk of accidents both onshore and in the water. Likewise, investing in high quality LED lighting tailored to endure harsh environments, and with a lifespan of ten years at a minimum, will enable the further safeguarding of operations.

Lighting holds the key to safer ports

Lighting is a critical element of port infrastructure both in terms of supporting the efficiency and safety of operations. It is without a doubt, that saving lives and protecting commercial reputation must therefore be at the forefront of decision making when assessing current lighting and purchasing new solutions.

Got questions or want to make sure your port lighting is up to scratch? Get in touch.

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