Seamen take on a high risk of injury compared to workers in many other industries. Hazards specific to the job create certain common types of accidents among maritime workers. There are always opportunities, however, to improve safety for the crew.
Common Maritime Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Slips, Trips and Falls
The surfaces on a vessel are often wet, slippery, uneven and cluttered; they are also often moving. These risk factors increase the risk of a slip, trip, or fall accident, commonly leading to a fall to deck level. Severe injuries are more likely to occur from a fall that happens at an unguarded edge such as an open hold, the side of the vessel, or at the top of the companion way.
- Keep walkways free of extra debris and clutter
- Add traction and hand-holds in slippery areas
- Supply safety harnesses
- Require crew to wear sturdy footwear with good ankle control and a rubber sole
Falling or being Swept Overboard
When a seaman falls off a vessel between a ship and a quayside carry or is swept into the sea, there is a strong risk for hypothermia, drowning, or crushing. Rescues can be difficult and are often carried out by other crew members.
- Crew should wear a life jacket or buoyancy suit at all times while on deck
- A rescue procedure must be in place with each crew member up to speed on the plan
Falling and Swinging Objects
A ship has multiple layers; activities on upper decks, masts or derricks can potentially cause problems for seamen working on the decks below. Tools falling, lifting tackle swinging, and cargo being lifted and moved are all common risks for a falling or swinging accident.
- Create a work practice that doesn’t allow crew to be beneath working or lifting operations.
- Require crew to wear hard hats when working with cargo
Working in Enclosed Spaces
There are many enclosed spaces on a vessel that can pose risks to seamen because of their lack of access and ventilation. Fuel stores, cargo areas, chain lockers and access routes used to inspect ship extremities of the hull are all examples of enclosed spaces that may contain combustible or explosive atmospheres, deficient in oxygen or contaminated with toxic gasses. Risks include fire, explosion, asphyxiation and poisoning.
- A detailed work practice must be in place:
- A tally system for entry
- A supervisor standing outside of enclosed space who is maintaining contact with the worker inside
- Personal alarm systems
- Gas checking for flammability and the presence of oxygen and toxic substances should be required
- Workers should wear protective equipment including breathing apparatus’
- Where there are known flammable or explosive risks, all lighting and tools used must be certified as flameproof and non-sparking
Acute Chemical Incidents: Eyes, Skin, Inhalation
Many chemical substances are used on vessels including scale removers, cleansing agents, and solvents. These chemicals can cause acute injuries to the eyes and skin but also by inhalation (gassing).
- The risks by all chemicals used on board should be known to employees and documented for easy referral
- Protective equipment must be provided to employees and worn at all times. Goggles may be provided, for example, if a chemical runs the risk of damaging the eyes.
- Do not let workers with asthma work with irritants that could cause an asthma attack if inhaled
- Do not let workers with limited vision or blindness in one eye risk working with a chemical that could cause a corneal burn
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