WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Shipping containers that have been fumigated and ventilated may still contain a significant quantity of fumigant (Methyl bromide, MeBr) residue due to poor venting procedures, desorption or entrapment of gas fumigant in the packaging. This may present a risk to persons involved in unpacking these containers.

 WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Methyl bromide affects the central nervous system. Depending on the level of exposure, inhalation of Methyl bromide (MeBr) may cause dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, blurred vision, numbness, tremors, and speech defects. Exposure to very high concentrations may cause pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs) as MeBr is an irritant Chronic exposure may also affect various other organs. The national occupational exposure standard for MeBr is an eight hour average of five parts per million (ppm).

 THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM?
The risks to subsequent handlers of these containers during unpacking operations can be eliminated or reduced, as far as reasonably practicable, by following the safety measures:

1. Determine whether the container has been fumigated by:

• Making reasonable enquiries to check whether the container has been fumigated in Australia or overseas.
• Checking for any fumigation warning notice
• Checking for any clearance certificate (if in doubt treat as if the container has been fumigated).

2. Place shipping container in a designated area with good natural ventilation.

3. Set up barricades and warning signs around the entrance of the container to prevent unauthorised access.

4. Open the container taking reasonable care to avoid exposure to any MeBr that may be present.

5. Prior to entering the container, vent using mechanical ventilation (electrical fans or blowers) for approximately 30 minutes depending on how the container is packed.

NOTE: Fans or Mechanical extraction is recommended if there is:

• Highly absorptive material (eg. wood, nuts seeds, foam rubber)
• Packaging that may trap the fumigant (eg. plastic bags, boxes, bubble wrap, furniture)
• Little natural air movement around the container, tightly packaged containers restricting air flow.

6. If mechanical ventilation is not practical, vent the container using natural ventilation (AS2476-2008 General fumigation procedure recommends 12 hours), or prior to entry to the container test the air using suitable air testing equipment to ensure the MeBr level is below the exposure standard of 5ppm.

7. If the container is tightly packed, partially unpack it and allow further venting for a short period of time. Repeat this process until the unpacking Is completed.

8. Train relevant employees in safe working procedures for unpacking fumigated containers and in the use of any MeBr testing equipment.

Interport Cargo Services PTY. LTD.
T: 0431326213 (Nathan)

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