Health & Safety On-board Ships
Sheila Pantry, OBE
Wherever the workplace, good standards of health and safety should prevail, and none more so than on board a ship or vessel. A ship, which constitutes a workplace involving a wide range of tasks which are often undertaken in geographical isolation will require special attention.
Because of this isolation it is necessary to ensure that all persons receiving professional maritime training who intend to work on board ships, should be given basic training in medical and emergency measures which should be taken immediately in the event of an accident or serious medical emergency.
The International Labour Office have long campaigned to improve working conditions of seafarers. In 1994, the ILO published Maritime Labour Conventions and Recommendations which contains 22 Recommendations dealing with conditions of employment of seafarers. It also gives the text of four ILO Conventions which apply to all workers including seafarers and include safety, health and welfare, prevention of accidents, health protection and medical care.
The European Commission's concern resulted in the Council Directive 92/29/EEC on the minimum safety and health requirements for improved medical treatment on board vessels.
This directive covers the following:
- that vessels should have adequate medical supplies, kept in good order and
checked at regular intervals, so that workers can obtain the necessary medical
treatment at sea;
- in order to ensure appropriate medical treatment at sea, training of and
information to seafarers should be encouraged as regards the use of medical
- the use of long-distance medical-consultation methods constitutes an efficient way of contributing to the protection of the safety and health of workers.
The Directive also instructs each European Member State to take the necessary measures to ensure that:
- every vessel flying its flag or registered under its plenary jurisdiction
always carries on board medical supplies which meet at least, in terms of
quality, the specification of Annex II sections I and II of the Directive for
the category of vessel to which it belongs;
- the quantities of medicinal products and medical equipment to be carried
depend on the nature of the voyage - in particular ports of call, destination,
duration - the type or types of the cargo and the number of workers';
- the content of the medicines and medical equipment included in the medical
supplies shall be detailed on a checklist corresponding at least to the general
framework laid down in the Directive's Annex IV, sections A, B and C II 1 and II
- for each of its life-rafts and life-boats, every vessel flying its flag or
registered under its plenary jurisdiction carries a watertight medicine chest at
least containing the medical supplies specified in Directive Annex II, sections
I and II, for category C vessels;
- the content of these chests is also detailed in the checklist;
- every vessel flying its flag or registered under its plenary jurisdiction of
more than 500 gross registered tonnes, with a crew of 15 or more workers and
engaged on a voyage of more than three days, has a sick-bay in which medical
treatment can be administered under satisfactory material and hygienic
- every vessel flying its flag or registered under its plenary jurisdiction, with a crew of 100 or more workers and engaged on an international voyage or more than three days, has a doctor responsible for the medical care of the workers on board.
The Directive lays down requirements on:
- allocation of responsibility;
- information and training;
- medical consultation by radio;
- annual inspections to check the on-board medical supplies;
- the medical supplies meet the minimum requirements of this Directive;
- the checklist provided confirms that the medical supplies comply with those minimum requirements;
- the medical supplies are correctly stored;
- any expiry dates have been respected.
Inspections of the medical supplies stored on life-rafts shall be carried out in the course of those life-rafts' annual maintenance, but may exceptionally be postponed for up to five months.
In addition to the above, training and information will be necessary to cover the wide range of tasks being carried out. The various pieces of legislation, guidance and advice on e.g. manual handling (see also , electricity safety, use of display screen equipment, and personal protective equipment will be needed. Likewise attention to details on good standards of housekeeping to keep walkways clear to prevent slips, trips and falls to personnel. (For fuller details see October 1996 Focus on Slips, Trips and Falls). The effects of shift working is well documented and much can be learned from the results of research. Ergonomics comes into most jobs and knowledge of the
To find further information on safety and health on board ships and other vessels see the various bibliographic databases - NIOSHTIC, CISDOC and HSELINE available on the OSH-ROM compact disc from SilverPlatter, and the full text information including legislation available on the OSH-CD also from SilverPlatter.
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Maritime Labour Conventions and Recommendations (ILO), Available in English and French from ILO Publications, International Labour Office, 1211 Geneve 22, Switzerland, 1994. vi, 194p.