The work that goes on at sea significantly impacts our lives here onshore. From the generation of energy to heat our homes through to transporting products between countries, those that work at sea are vital. This unique working environment also presents a set of very unique hazards. And, unfortunately, many of these can have catastrophic results including fatalities. For this reason, it is vital that companies operating at sea implement the highest and newest safety measures to protect the livelihood of their workers.
PPE is one of the ways this can be done effectively. Injuries caused by marine work activity can happen no matter where your job role sits in the hierarchy. And, wearing the right protective equipment and clothing significantly minimises the risk to yourself and others. This guide will look at safety at sea in line with marine safety PPE.
How many accidents happen at sea?
While a focus on safety in the workplace has caused statistics on marine injuries to plateau, it’s important to note that 53 individuals died at sea in 2018. In the same year, 941 people were injured. A significant percentage of these are crew and those working at sea in fact, the EMSA reports that these individuals account for 6062 injuries between 2011 and 2018. Another report published in 2019 showed that there were 3174 maritime casualties and incidents in this year. Within this, 53 fatalities and 95 very serious casualties occured.
These numbers demonstrate just how dangerous working at sea can be. And the need for effective protection is vital. This is where PPE comes into play.
Establishing the need for PPE
In any environment, it is important to establish the locations or activities within a workplace that present hazards. Performing a risk assessment is one of the most effective ways to do this. While there are no defined parameters for how these should be undertaken, it is important that the information gained benefits your safety focus.
Ensure the risk assessment you use is well structured and planned out, covering all areas of the workplace. You will need to:
- Identify the hazards presented.
- Assess whether these can be eliminated effectively.
- Where this is unachievable, establish what actions should be taken to minimise these hazards as significantly as possible.
- Implement changes and protective measures.
- Regularly monitor effectiveness and alter procedures where needed.
You should focus on the risks that put the individuals actively performing the task or working in a specific area in danger first. This should be followed by understanding the risks posts to company property and then those presented to the environment.
Example and template risk assessments can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website. Alternatively, it is acceptable for businesses to create their own, as long as this covers all areas and is easy-to-understand for all.
Most effective PPE for marine safety
While PPE needs to meet the specific needs of different industries, those required for marine safety largely mirrors that across the board. Below, we will discuss the different types of PPE and their relevance to these unique environments.
Providing a protective barrier across your head, helmets prevent injury from falling items. They also help when working at height to prevent injury in the event that a worker falls from areas such as masts, lashing bridges and cargo holds. Helmets should be worn by all workers where this risk is deemed significant.
Designed to protect feet, safety shoes also offer a non-slip underside which minimises the risk of slips and falls. Many types are built with steel toe caps, ensuring toe brakes don’t occur if heavier options fall on your feet. And they offer support to the ankle when twisting and moving. Safety shoes should be standard for all manual marine workers unless something more suitable is deemed appropriate.
Safety Hand Gloves
Manual labour is part and parcel of many marine-based jobs. And, for this reason, workers’ hands are one of the most at-risk items on their bodies. Safety gloves, including those that are resistant to puncture and chemical degradation, are essential. They are used when clearing potentially dangerous items from a ship’s deck, hauling large shipping containers to their desired destination or working with hot surfaces. A variety of safety gloves should be made available – cotton gloves for general operation, heat resistant gloves for more hazardous work etc.
Eyes are a part of the human body that are both sensitive and prone to injury. It is important that the hazards presented here are significantly minimised and safety goggles allow this to happen. Again, similar to hand gloves, there are many different types of goggles. Each one is suited to a different application. Welding gloves are designed to prevent impact for high-intensity sparks and debris. UV protected goggles are used to minimise the impact of excessive sunlight. And glass goggles are used in other environments where a layer of protection is required.
Where excessive noise is evident, the risk to ears increases. Known as ‘noise-induced hearing loss’ (NIHL), it is one of the most commonly reported workplaces injury. Traditionally, ear muffs were the answer – providing a layer that muffles our noise. However, this has since been deemed more impactful to communication between workers and heightens risk in other settings. Technology has evolved as a response to this, merging ear muffs with wireless communication technology. These models allow communication to be free-flowing while still reducing the impact noise can have.
Working at height is dangerous and this is just enhanced when in the marine industry. Whether used for routine maintenance on elevated surfaces or as part of a job role, it is important that harnesses are used. They prevent falls from becoming more significant, reduce the height from which you can fall and are effective in maintaining safety.
On occasion, it is necessary for marine workers to complete jobs where hazardous gases or particles can impact the health of their lungs. This could be due to painting, regular maintenance or jobs that are specific to the company’s place within the industry. Whatever the reason, face masks are used to block these particles from making their way into the body.
Ship maintenance chemicals themselves pose a threat to skin and overall health. In environments where these chemicals are particularly hazardous or a worker expects to be in regular contact with them, chemical suits can be used. They cover the entire body and provide a durable layer that minimises the chance of contact while being worn.
Safety while working at sea is something every marine-based company needs to consider. To accommodate the legal requirements for health and safety in your workplace, providing the right PPE is vital. If you would like any more information about PPE or the ways in which you can create a safer working environment, get in contact with the team here at Pinpoint Electronics Ltd.