Health and Safety on Ships and at Sea

A ship at sea runs in a self-contained environment. That means the ship owners and operators are responsible for health and safety at sea and on ships.

HSE SHIPS: The Health and Safety Executive provides training courses on ship safety.

All ship owners must ensure their staff have training in 3 areas of health and safety.

Ship workers safety training must include First Aid, Fire Prevention and Manual Handling.

The HSE and MCA help identify particular hazards that the crew of a ship may face at sea. The most common hazards include slips, trips, and falls.

A commercial ship at sea has an increased risk of health and safety issues. A list of complex dangers could include electricity, fuel, and combustible materials.

This adds danger for seafarers on board seagoing ships or small commercial vessels. Thus, operators must protect the health and safety of workers on board by:

  • Following all safety standards and the code of safe working practices.
  • Ensuring the safe operation of ship machinery and equipment.
  • Ensuring the crew sail the vessel safely and workers have any necessary qualifications.
  • Equipping the ship with the correct emergency equipment and safety procedures.
  • Providing the crew with health protection and medical care.
  • Performing regular risk assessments.
  • Supplying crew and staff with necessary protective clothing and equipment.
  • Monitoring maritime safety information broadcasts.
  • Consulting with workers on ship health and safety matters (or their representatives).

Training for Health and Safety at Sea

All workers must receive basic ship health and safety training. Download the leaflet titled ‘HSE INDG345 Health and Safety Training’ for further detailed information.

Written Health and Safety Policy

Ships must have a policy that sets out how the health and safety issues will get managed. The Health and Safety Executive provides further guidance for writing safety policies.

Note: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) launched a new digital ‘Wellbeing at Sea Tool’ designed to support seafarers by addressing the issues around mental health at sea.

Conducting Ship Risk Assessments

Operators must carry out regular risk assessments. The purpose is to test how accidents, injuries or illnesses could happen on board the ship. It also provides an opportunity to see what steps you can take to reduce the risks of them happening.

Note: You must review health and safety risk assessments every year. They also need reviewing any time there are significant changes to the ship or to working activities.

Chapter 1 of the ‘Code of safe working practices for merchant seamen: consolidated edition 2017/18′ has the basic requirements for risk assessments on board ships.

The ‘Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997’ has the requirements for risk assessments on merchant ships.

Ship Risk Assessment Forms

You can download all COSWP risk assessment forms for ships at sea on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency website.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) publish the Code of Safe Working Practices (COSWP 2017/18) in the United Kingdom.

Health and Safety at Sea, on Board Ships, and for Ship Workers