Personal Protective Equipment May be the Best Way to Promote Marine Safety

marine safety, PPE, maritime job injuries

The global economy lives and dies with the health of the shipping industry.  Despite its global importance, workers in the shipping industry face marine safety hazards that make their workplace one of the most dangerous in the world.  Maritime job injuries can happen in almost any occupation in the industry.  Could appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) help mitigate risks?

Using PPE to Promote Marine Safety

A study recently published in Risk Analysis: an International Journal seeks to understand the causes, and the best ways to reduce, the frequency of occupational injuries among seafarers.  Safer work conditions for seafarers directly benefits shipping companies in the form of reduced insurance premiums, liabilities and legal costs, which in turn certainly benefits the consumer.

The Risk Analysis study addresses the causes of workplace injuries and accidents.  Researchers found that marine safety campaigns focusing on personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers can be the most effective at reducing risks and subsequent injuries.

The article referred to a study called “Quantitative Risk Assessment of Seafarers Non-fatal Injuries Due to Occupational Accidents Based on Bayesian Network Modeling.” Conducted by a team of Singapore-based researchers, the survey collected extensive data from seafarers about their working practices and their records of injuries.

Data Collection about Marine Safety Practices

Researchers collected 354 responses from seafarers in Singapore, China, South Korea, and Vietnam.   Workers in these countries represent a high percentage of the workers in the international seafaring market.  The responses recorded information designed to test certain potential risk factors including:

  • Demographics – Sex, age, experience, nationality, ship type, position, time in position, tour duration, change of ship, familiarity, training, adequate rest, distraction.
  • Work-Related Factors – Job risk awareness, job risk assessment, risk communication from employers, procedure design, housekeeping shore visit frequency, maintenance, accident feedback loop ,and injury during workers’ latest tour.
  • PPE Use – Defective equipment or tools, PPE availability, PPE training, PPE usage, and reasons for not using PPE.

Marine Safety and PPE Study Results

The results of the survey suggested:

  • 14% of seafarers suffered at least one injury during their latest tour.
  • The most influential risk factors were age, risk awareness, sea experience, and PPE availability.
  • 4% of marine workers reported never receiving proper PPE training.
  • The injury rate among respondents untrained in PPE was as much as 33% higher than others.
  • Overall, PPE availability had the greatest potential to decrease probability of injuries.
  • Risk awareness can be improved through training.
  • 18% of respondents reported their company did not retrain or refresh training after a maritime injury accident hurt a co-worker.

Overall, PPE availability is the most significant factor for promoting marine safety, indicating that:

  • Maritime management should focus on improving and maintaining the supply of proper and effective PPEs aboard their vessels.
  • A periodic review of the need for PPE for each task and subsequent updates of the type, size, and quality of PPE would be a particularly effective new marine safety campaigns for employers to implement.
  • Companies should ensure all workers receive appropriate training on the proper use of PPEs, because this training is easily as important as the availability of the equipment itself.
  • Risk awareness among employees can be improved by sharing information and anecdotes of common injuries.
  • Communicating risk assessment results and posting warning signs at the sites of potential marine safety hazards can also be effective.
  • Selecting PPE that do not sacrifice workplace efficiency will promote workers using them more regularly.
  • Developing a workplace culture that promotes using PPEs at all times may also be effective.

Types Of PPE Most Effective at Protecting from Marine Safety Hazards

The viability of the shipping industry depends on a safe and effective workforce.  That is, seafarers who are competent and whose employers provide safe and healthy working conditions.  The following types of PPEs keep maritime workers safe as they labor in this very dangerous industry.

Protective Clothing

The most common piece of protective clothing is a coverall, which protects the body from injuries due to hazardous substances like hot water, or a welding spark.  Maritime workers popularly refer to a coverall as a dangri or a boiler suit.


Some of the most devastating injuries maritime workers incur are head injuries.  Hard hats or helmets with chin straps can guard against head injuries even if the worker trips or falls.

Safety Shoes

Bulky cargo and machinery, welding, falling objects, and slick surfaces create conditions that benefit from appropriate footwear.  Safety shoes help workers to find their footing safely, which prevents slip and fall accidents.  Also, safety shoes protect feet from crushing injuries.  Safety shoes should be both non-skid and steel toed.


Gloves of many different descriptions can be provided on board a ship as PPE.  Some are heat resistant gloves for working on a hot surface. Cotton gloves improve grip. Welding gloves protect from burns. And chemical gloves prevent toxic exposure.

Eye Protection

Daily working conditions on a ship create many opportunities for eye injury.  Protective glasses or goggles are essential for eye protection, and welding goggles should always be used during welding operations.

Hearing Protection

Ear muffs or ear plugs are necessary in engine rooms where sound levels can easily reach 110 or 120 decibels.  Consequently, even a few minutes of exposure to volume of that level can cause headaches or even hearing loss.


Many jobs in the maritime industry involve working around hazardous particles.  Painting, welding, and sandblasting are a few examples.  Workers on older ships also risk exposure to substances like asbestos and silica dust, which are common in the maritime industry.  Respirators can prevent respiratory injury or illness due to dangerous particle exposure.

Chemical Suit

Many maritime workers will face exposure to toxic chemicals in the course of their work.  Some of the chemicals are very dangerous if they come in contact with human skin. Wearing a chemical suit or hazmat suit can avoid burns and other injuries due to hazardous chemicals.

Safety Harnesses

Seafarers regularly climb high and elevated surfaces to perform routine maintenance and other operations on the ship.  Many times crew members must attempt to reach areas that are not easily accessible.  As a result of the ships movement, the risk of a fall from heights is quite high, and requires the use of a safety harness.  Safety harnesses must be worn by the operator at one end and tied to a strong point at the other end to catch a worker in case of a fall.

Welding Shield

Welding is a daily occurrence on board most ships because it is absolutely essential for structural repairs.  Welders should have access to a welding shield or mask to protect their eyes and face from coming into direct contact with the ultraviolet rays of the weld and intense sparks from the metal.

Have Questions about Marine Safety and Your Rights?

Shipping companies have a responsibility to minimize marine safety hazards.  That includes ensuring that the work environment is safe and meets regulations, and that employees have proper PPE and training.  If your employer failed to issue you PPE, or failed to train you in the ways to properly use it, contact Maritime Injury Guide.

If an employer does not meet regulations and you are harmed as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.  Talk to a maritime injury lawyer to find out more about marine safety and your rights.  Call 1-866-871-8422 or contact us online for more information.