Personal Safety on Board Ship Series: The Accommodation (Edition 2)

May 14, 2019 11:41 am

Ships can dangerous places, and there are so many hazards facing seafarers. Often, there can be a temptation to relax inside the accommodation. Sadly, that is where many things go wrong, and even in their own living spaces, crew are under threat. In this updated series, seafarers are introduced to the most common hazards in the accommodation and made aware of some key lessons.


The accommodation space onboard ship can pose a variety of hazards and risks to seafarers. It may be tempting to feel safer once inside, but there is still much to remember and to consider.

The second in the Personal Safety on Board Ship Series looks at the ways in which seafarers need to perceive these risks and the measures to avoid them. Also, it features the steps to make the accommodation and living spaces as safe as possible.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this type of safety is that these accidents happen when people’s guards are down. There is an element of complacency, and so this needs to be guarded against.

While it should also be remembered that there are dangers lurking even in this supposedly safer area, fires can break out, there can be slips, trips and falls, and a galley can, of course, bring its own unique issues.


It may sound an odd or even an old-fashioned concept, but “good housekeeping” is essential to ensure that ships provide a safe working place and living space. The concept is about keeping things clean, neat and well cared for. Avoiding creating hazards and dealing with them when they are spotted.

There are technical elements to this approach, and a requirement to keep the vessel in good shape. So, where there is poor paint, rust or wastage of steel structures, then this must be dealt with. A good housekeeping regime is about improving the appearance of the vessel too.

It is about keeping places neat and tidy, with everything in its place and secure. So, paint lockers, stores, the galley and workshops have everything properly stowed, stored and secured for heavy weather. It is also important that any tanks, such as oxygen and acetylene cylinders are stored properly, and their caps are in place. Around the vessel, it is useful to use stencils to label vents, switches and exhausts, while obstructions in the walking path should be marked and made conspicuous.

Good housekeeping is about common sense, and the application of seamanship. It should also be remembered that lapses or issues with are often noticed during port State control or vetting inspections, audits and condition surveys. So, it is vital from a safety and operational perspective to get this right.



The second in the KVH Videotel Personal Safety on Board Ship series features the key aspects of keeping seafarers safe when working in or near the accommodation. Here are some issues to consider when thinking about safety on board:

Slips, trips and falls: These commonly cause injury on board, but they can also turn far more serious if they lead to a fall from height. Seafarers need to be aware of the basics and be able to spot the warning signs of areas which are likely to trip others up.

So, training to spot hazards and the means of dealing with them is an important part of the way to minimise such accidents or incidents. Seafarers needs to look for trip hazard, such as worn carpeting or mats and rugs which move. It is also vital to check for wet, oily, greasy, or dusty residues in ladder treads or stairs. It is also important to walk not run, and don’t forget the old saying of “one hand for you, one for the ship” – which means keep hold of something and use the hand rails.

Fire: Fire is a constant risk at sea, and all crew onboard have a massive role to play in helping to safeguard against it. There are many basic steps to preventing fires, and these need to be followed by all seafarers all the time.

Smoking is banned on most ships, or only allowed in dedicated areas, but cigarettes can still lead to fires, as well as discarded matches. Today there are also the issues of vaping to deal with, and there have been concerns about the heating of some pieces of vaping equipment when charging.

Heaters, overloaded sockets, and phone or laptop batteries can all give rise to fires onboard, and so need to be carefully monitored. Even innocuous places like the laundry or gym/recreation areas can pose fire threats. Lint will gather in dryer filters/screens and is highly flammable. Also, gym equipment can often see dust gather – and the friction from constant use can heat this and lead to fires.

Emergency equipment: Even before things go wrong, it is vital to understand where to find, and how to operate emergency equipment. It needs to be clearly identified, accessible – and it needs to work as it should.

All ships must carry certain emergency and life-saving equipment. This equipment must meet minimum standards and must be properly tested and serviced. There are different requirements depending on the size and type of ship and where it operates, but the main requirements are to carry

  • lifeboats and liferafts
  • lifebuoys
  • lifejackets and attachments
  • buoyancy apparatus
  • emergency alarm systems and public address systems
  • marine evacuation systems
  • two-way VHF radiotelephone sets
  • fire-fighting equipment

The training focuses on how to use the right equipment in the right way, for the right emergency.

Personal hygiene: It may seem a slightly awkward or even embarrassing topic, but the importance of personal hygiene is vital at sea. The need to be clean and look after yourself are vitally important.

From the head down through intimate areas, and even down to feet – there are many challenges to keeping clean at sea, and whether it is dirt from work or even the challenges of detergent onboard, training focuses on how to be clean and healthy.

Working at height: Shipboard working often means having to perform tasks at height, or where there are drops. The nature and design of ships means that there are many unique challenges for seafarers.

Unfortunately falls from height are a major cause of workplace fatalities and injuries. Plus, there is also a consideration of dropping equipment from height – and so crew need to be constantly aware and vigilant of the risks to them and also to others.

It is unlikely that working at can be avoided, so training is vital to ensure that the right precautions and equipment is used, and that risks are taken into account. It is also important to consider issues such as the weather, and vessel operations. and undertaking work at height. While the training also stresses the need to manage risks properly and effectively.

To find out more about this course see Personal Safety on Board Ship Series: The Accommodation. We would also love to hear what you think about safety at sea and for seafarers? Share your thoughts with us.