Ensuring the safety of Israeli port workers from Houthi attacks

Science and Health

As Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists in Yemen continue their missile and pirate attacks in the Red Sea and other bodies of water, measures are being taken to ensure the safety of port workers in Israel. 

The attacks have led to various incidents directly affecting port workers in Israel, including increased risks, physical strain on workers due to staff cuts, and changes in safety regulations.

The Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene (IIOSH) of the National Insurance Institute has released guidelines on how to maintain the safety of port workers during times of war. 

Recent intensified Houthi attacks on maritime vessels in the Red Sea have directly impacted the continuous supply at various ports in Israel, resulting in a significant impact on port operations. 

Major shipping companies, such as the world’s largest – Danish Maersk – have announced the suspension of all shipments passing through the Red Sea, and the German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd has announced the freezing of its shipments through the Red Sea, forcing them to go the much-longer way via the western part of Africa.

Port of Ashdod (credit: REUTERS)

The reduction in maritime shipments to Israeli ports has led to a decrease in manpower and an increased workload for the remaining workers. In addition, numerous shipments and cargoes remain stuck in the ports, causing congestion and safety hazards.

Safety recommendations for port managers

In response, safety and regulation experts provide a series of recommendations for managers on how to ensure the safety of port workers given the increased workload resulting from Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. 


* Personal protective equipment: Follow all safety measures, including mandatory personal protective equipment such as protective clothing, safety shoes, ear protection, a protective helmet, and a reflective vest, which are the essential personal protective gear for working on ships, docks, and other operational areas in ports.

* Cautionary measures: Clearly demarcate the work area using yellow/orange lines. Access to the area between the yellow/orange line and the waterline should be restricted to authorized personnel only, in coordination with the vessel’s work supervisor.

* Working at heights: Only authorized and certified workers trained according to safety regulations and with a valid permit for working from heights should perform elevated tasks.

* Waterfront work: Provide workers with life-saving equipment when working close to the waterline to prevent drowning incidents.

* Forklift operations and ship cleaning: Maintain a safe distance from the forklift during manual cleaning of ships. Workers should establish eye contact with the forklift operator, pay attention to the direction of travel, and cease work when the forklift and cleaning equipment are in operation. Workers should wear reflective vests, protective helmets, safety shoes, gas detection devices, and evacuation masks.

* Weather-related incidents: During winter, prioritize worker safety in ports due to stormy weather and the proximity to the sea that pose numerous safety risks. Workers should be aware of these hazards and minimize risks by using appropriate protective equipment and attending regular safety briefings on winter and stormy weather conditions.

* Hazardous materials: When using hazardous/toxic/dispersive materials for work, inform the port safety supervisor and make necessary safety adjustments before beginning work with these materials. 

* Fencing: During maintenance work in the port, it is mandatory to fence off the work area and mark it with warning signs to alert workers to safety hazards, including work on cranes.

 * Lashing work: Opening or closing lashings on cargoes will only be done if no operational work is taking place within one lateral distance on each side of the vessel, following work and safety regulations. In any case, early coordination with the vessel’s work supervisor is required. Workers’ access to the roof of the containers on the deck, if needed, should be facilitated using a gondola, under the guidance of a certified port safety officer.

IIOSH director-general Dr. Miki Winkler stressed that “the current wartime operations at the ports are as crucial as during routine days. The activities of port workers are critical for the efficient unloading and loading of goods, as well as the professional and safe handling of cargoes. 

To navigate through the wartime routine, it is vital for all managers and workers to recognize the risks and minimize them. Obtaining all necessary information about hazardous materials and emergency response procedures is vital in case of emergency situations. Together, we will overcome challenges and continue to advance the State of Israel and its economy safely, without incidents and workplace accidents.”