There are several different authorities which combine to ensure that dock workers and others are protected in the workplace and that all health and safety regulations are fully complied with. Years ago, when there were many more dockworkers working in the UK, there was very little mechanisation to assist them in their work.
Today, that has changed and many roles which used to be carried out manually have now become automated to a greater or lesser degree and, whilst there may be far fewer full-time dockworkers in the UK these days, the automation process has brought with it additional new challenges when it comes to complying with health and safety regulations and, in spite of all the changes and many improvements over the last few decades, dock work still represents one of the more potentially dangerous occupations in the UK.
The Role of the Health and Safety Executive
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for health and safety enforcement when it comes to the dock workers themselves and the safety of passengers whilst in a port or dock. Things like landing stages and jetties, any diving activity that takes place, the handling and moving of any cargo that to is their responsiblity, not to mention the safe care and handling of any dangerous goods whilst they are in the docks, alongside the safe storage of any explosive and highly flammable chemicals and other materials.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Working in conjunction with the HSE, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are responsible for all health and safety enforcement onboard boats and ships and the Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB), which is part of the Department for Transport, is responsible for investigating any accidents which may occur onboard a vessel and the subsequent reporting of that alongside any recommendations that they make which are aimed at preventing the reoccurrence of such accidents in the future.
Dock based workers whose duties are carried out either onshore or onboard the ships themselves are covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Docks Regulations and any incidents are investigated by the HSE.
Other Health and Safety Issues
The HSE is also responsible for issuing approval for the likes of companies who are involved in the construction and maintenance of freight containers as well as the access to and loading and unloading from fishing vessels and the management and operations of fish farms although the actual onboard safety of the fishing vessels themselves comes under the jurisdiction of the MCA.
Local authorities also have a role to play in ensuring that certain activities on or adjacent to docks are fully compliant with health and safety regulations. This can incorporate work within nearby office buildings including offices on board vessels which are permanently moored, as well as any leisure related activities which might include boat hire, water sports, nearby pubs and restaurants as well as the likes of museums and theatres which can often be found close to waterside developments these days.