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Port workers can refuse to work if they feel unsafe, according to new universal work site protocols for the protection of dockers and other keyworkers in ports, issued by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

The ITF recommends Covid-19 committees be set up in workplaces which would continuously review all preventative measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

All changes to workplace safety procedures should be implemented through collective bargaining agreements and labour relations structures.

The ITF said all risk assessments must be conducted with union representatives, including risks of increased workplace violence and harassment.

Terminal operators were urged to broadcast all pertinent information and governmental guidance on Covid-19, and unions and management would collectively review Covid-19 guidelines.

'Individual responsibility cannot be used as a pretext to replace corporate responsibility,' the ITF said. 'Employers must recognise that workers are entitled to a safe and healthy workplace and the right to refuse unsafe work remains paramount.'

Key points of the ITF health and safety guidance include:

  • Before a vessel arrives in port, crew need to sanitise all access areas for shore-based dockworkers
  • Vessels must be declared free of contaminants and agreed with union health and safety officers before any shore staff start work
  • Masters must report any crew illness through pre-arrival procedures and any reported illness must be reported to the Union health and safety officers
  • Vessel operators must also notify the terminal operators and relevant unions with full details of previous ports
  • Crew must keep a safe social distance of two meters from dockers. Where crew require access to shore, a clear path will be agreed between shore-based workers and crew
  • Crew should remain inside the vessel while alongside where required to perform critical duties while shore-based workers are aboard
  • The use of electronic communications is encouraged wherever possible
  • Terminal operators must provide all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), and clothing must be adapted to fit both the bodies of women and men
  • Faceshields will be made available to those working closer than two metres, such as lashers.
  • Download the full ITF guidance

Nautilus members who are concerned or are experiencing difficulties related to the coronavirus outbreak are advised to contact their industrial organiser for assistance. In an emergency, members can also contact the Nautilus 24/7 helpline.

More Nautilus assistance and our coronavirus resource hub can be found on our Assistance page.


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