Electrical hazards can lead to deaths and injuries such as shocks and burns. They can also lead to shipboard fires, explosions and the disabling (through blackouts) of essential equipment and services on board which can compromise safety. Ensuring that the right controls and mitigation measures are in place is critical for maintaining safe operations. To be effective, control measures need to be developed at the organisational, technical and individual levels.

Between 2011 and 2015, a total of 87 electrical related incidents were reported to AMSA. A breakdown of the outcomes from these incidents, categorised into injuries (23), fires (14), equipment/electrical failures (47) and near misses (3), is shown in Figure below.

AMSA figure

Isolation and tagging of electrical power supply are critical tasks that should be undertaken prior to commencing work

AMSA also collects port State control (PSC) and flag State control (FSC) inspection data. PSC and FSC data is a reflection of normal operations and often contains information on similar precursors to accidents and incidents. This allows for the identification of control measures and the implementation of safety interventions to prevent more serious occurrences.

A comparative analysis of electrical related PSC/FSC deficiencies and reported incident data collected by AMSA during the period 2011 to 2015 is shown in Figure below. In this period, there were a total of 1325 electrical related deficiencies issued by AMSA.

AMSA figure 2

The PSC/FSC data displayed in this Figure possibly highlights a level of underreporting of electrical related deficiencies. Interestingly, a more detailed analysis of PSC/FSC data shows that most of these deficiencies point to hazards such as; low insulation (50%), earth faults (34%), unsafe wiring (11%), protection/isolation issues (3%) and power supply problems (2%).

AMSA figure 3

Companies must ensure that control measures, work practices and procedures are in place to eliminate electrical hazards. Although policies and procedures provide for safe working practices, it is the culture within the organisation and on board each ship that must support the desired behaviours.

  • Ensure appropriate supervision is provided;
  • Put in place safe operating processes and procedures;
  • Carry out risk assessments for all electrical work;
  • Adequate maintenance, including inspection and testing; and
  • Ensure that fatigue and workload is managed appropriately.
  • Equipment design (ensuring safe design);
  • Appropriate warning signs are in place including proper labelling for tag/lockouts;
  • Appropriate use of surge protective devices;
  • Ensure electrical systems are properly isolated when required;
  • Carry out regular insulation testing; and
  • Ensure there are clear and concise manuals for use of electrical equipment.
  • Appropriate training, knowledge and awareness of electrical hazards;
  • Appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and
  • Report of electrical safety related incidents and near misses.
Always remember – electricity is the invisible and silent killer. You won’t see it, you won’t hear it and you won’t feel it until it is too late. Just don’t risk it.

Working with electricity is inherently dangerous and it is critical to ensure that safe working conditions are in place. Both the seafarer and the company have a responsibility to make safety their top priority.

From an organisational perspective, the following should be considered:

  • regular communication, education, training and safety meetings;
  • ensure thorough risk assessments are in place;
  • ensure a thorough verification of electrical equipment has been conducted, particularly with regard to quality, labelling, design and location on board;
  • reinforce the positive behaviour of reporting all incidents, near misses and unsafe conditions;
  • ensure routine checks of switchboard and distribution systems are carried out; and
  • ensure robust isolation processes and procedures are in place and adhered to.

From an individual perspective, the following should be considered:

  • stop the job if you feel unsafe;
  • always ensure a detailed risk assessment is in place and you are familiar with the risk controls required for the task;
  • always check and confirm tag/lockout is in place;
  • use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as insulated mats, safety shoes and tools;
  • establish clear lines of communication with other personnel;
  • inspect and test tools prior to use – do not use equipment if it has been modified or damaged; and
  • report all incidents and near misses.

Please click here below to find AMSA's Maritime Safety Awareness Bulletin on electrical safety

AMSA Safety Bulletin - electrical hazards

Source & Image/ Figure Credits: AMSA