There are many situations on board a ship where accidents can happen, from slipping over on deck to not realising the dangers of entering enclosed spaces.

Enclosed Spacesincidents in enclosed spaces have resulted in several casualties and severe injuries over the years. Accidents can occur when crew enter a confined space which is not properly gasfreed and ventilated and has pockets of toxic or flammable gases or the space has reduced oxygen.

  1. Falls – seafarers on board ships are often required to work at heights while wearing safety harnesses and carrying tools. However, in spite of taking all the necessary precautions, several crew members have lost their lives or suffered permanent disabilities as a result of falling or slipping from heights. There have also been many cases where crew have fallen into cargo holds or have tripped over inside cargo holds.
  2. Man Overboard – this situation is not uncommon and is obviously an extremely dangerous situation, both for the seafarer and for the rescuers. Although seafarers are trained to deal with such situations, bad weather and heavy seas, together with strong currents, can hamper the rescue operation. Where the water is extremely cold, the man overboard can suffer hypothermia or other serious health issues.
  3. Electric Shocks – electric shocks have been the cause of several deaths on board ships. Unattended electrical connections, exposed wires and failure to take basic precautions while handling electrical equipment can result in accidents and fatalities.
  4. Engine Room Accidents – everyone working on ships should be aware of the dangers in the engine room, for example, boiler explosions. These can be caused by fuel dripping inside the furnace of the boiler, with the boiler misfiring or overheating


The Club advises the following steps to face a dangerous situation onboard:

If you are worried that a certain task could be putting your safety at risk, make sure you speak up before you start working on it. Other crew with more experience may be able to offer advice on how to carry out the task more safely.

● Make sure you take notice of safety signs around the ship and ensure that you have been properly trained and briefed when carrying out tasks. If you are concerned make sure you ask for supervision until you feel confident in carrying out the task alone.

● Some companies also issue red cards which crew members can carry around with them. If a crew member displays the card, which is recognised by the whole team, it means that everyone involved should‘stop work’. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation you can show the card to your colleagues to indicate that work should be stopped immediately

Health Watch provides advice on how to stay safe in enclosed spaces as well as what seafarers need to do in the event of someone onboard is in need of immediate first aid ( if someone onboard is chocking; has collapsed; is bleeding severely;is electrocuted; has burnes; has a back/ spinal/neck injury)

How to stay safe in enclosed spaces

● Before entering an enclosed space you should be satisfied that the space is safe to enter. Always consider the space you are entering and the ability for the atmosphere inside to support human life.

● The atmosphere within an enclosed space, such as a cargo hold, can change quickly and become lethal, dependent on conditions inside and the cargo involved.

● Never enter a confined space if safer alternatives for carrying out the work are available.

● If entry is unavoidable, a‘Safe System of Work’ should be followed including the issue of a‘Permit-to-Work’to ensure that all controls are in place to eliminate (or reduce to a safe level) all of the dangers highlighted in the risk assessment.

● The use of a safe system of work should also ensure adequate supervision and communication is established. Never ignore warning signs

● If you are not part ofthe team designated to work in a confined spaceDO NOT ENTER – even to attemptto rescue an unconscious colleague.

● Regular drills should include the checking and use of PPE; communication equipment and procedures;rescue equipment and procedures; and instruction in first aid and resuscitation.

● EEBDs (emergency escape breathing devices) provide a short term air supply for crew to escape a hazardous atmosphere and should NEVER be worn to enter, re-enter or work in a hazardous atmosphere.

Further details maybe found by reading HealthWatch magazine (Volume 5/ March 2016) issued by the Britannia P&I Club

HealthWatch- Britannia P&I Club

Source: The Britannia P&I Club