Seafarers face one of the highest risks of workplace injury or death and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is considered as a first line of defense to keep maritime workers safe while on duty. However, not only seafarers need to start their day by wearing proper PPE but also shipping organizations need to develop a workplace culture that promote the use of PPE at all times.
The shipowner and employer must ensure so far as practicable that PPE is used as instructed – e.g. that it is only used for the purpose for which it is designed, and that it is put on and worn correctly. Seafarers and other workers should receive adequate and appropriate training so that they are aware of the risks against which the PPE is designed to protect them, how and when to use it, and how to look after it correctly. Seafarers and other workers are required to wear and use the PPE which has been issued to them when appropriate, and to comply with any instruction provided.
Furthermore, the shipowner and employer must ensure that the PPE supplied is easily accessible, properly stored and maintained, and where appropriate, instructions are available to seafarers and other workers who are required to carry out any maintenance. What’s more, the equipment must be regularly inspected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and its operation checked. Respiratory protective equipment must always be checked before and after use.
- Focus on maintaining the supply of proper and effective PPEs onboard
- Review periodically PPE for each task (type, size, quality)
- Training on the proper use of PPEs to all people onboard is necessary
- Improve risk awareness by sharing information of common injuries
- Warning signs at the sites of potential marine safety hazards can be effective
- Promote a safety campaign on the use of PPEs at all times
The Code of Safe Working Practices devotes a full chapter to PPE explaining that suitable for work equipment means as follows:
- Be appropriate for the risks involved, and the task being performed, without itself leading to any significant increased risk
- Fit the seafarer correctly after any necessary adjustment
- Take account of ergonomic requirements and the seafarer’s state of health
- Be compatible with any other equipment that the seafarer has to use at the same time, so that it continues to be effective against the risk
Find the updated safety standards for PPE (As of September 2019) in Merchant Shipping Notice M1870
PPE for female mariners
However, considering that nowadays there are far more women at sea and the whole industry is taking action to increase their participation, we should question: is the existing PPE requirements fit for purpose for the female mariners? Interestingly, CHIRP Maritime has recently brought the matter into the surface, conducting a limited survey on female seafarers in order to gauge the opinion of those most affected. As explained, CHIRP based their survey on the acknowledge that a woman who cannot find correctly fitting and comfortable PPE is likely to put herself at increased risk of injury, highlighting the following key points (in comparison with existing PPE sizes designed for men):
- A typical woman’s foots is both shorter and narrower than a man’s, so even the smaller size of a man’s boot would be wide
- A woman’s face is generally smaller and finer than a man’s so protective eye wear could leave gaps
- The average woman has shorter and narrower fingers and a smaller palm circumference, so even a small zine glove would be loose and risk catching and entrapment
- Slips and falls protection is not properly addressed by an improperly sized safety harness which can hinder movement and the ability to work safely
- A woman wearing a hard hat may risk having her vision obscured if it slips over her eyes
CHIRP further explained that developed a series of questions to all female participants of the survey with a view to collating feedback on the common trends. Following the interesting findings of this survey as well as a quick interent search which reveals that there are currently no manufacturers who supply female- specific PPE, CHIRP Maritime calls industry stakeholders to address the issue and update safety standards with regard to PPE in order to respectively take into consideration women at sea. Learn more about the survey herebelow