Working in shipyards – the hazards and how to prevent them

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Ships, tankers, or cruisers are built, repaired or demolished in shipyards and shipyard workers are constantly exposed to multiple types of health hazards.

Working in shipyards

Processes such as the cutting and shaping sheets and profiles, welding, mechanics, electrical systems, fittings and furnishing are all carried out in shipyard workshops. Shipyards also require cranes, bridge-cranes, warehouses, equipment quays, slipways and naval basins. Along these lines, repair work carried out in shipyards on standard and industrial vehicles can also cause workers to breathe harmful substances such as vapours, gases or dust produced by welding electrodes, paint, thinners, glass fibres and ceramics or resins. Particular attention needs to be paid to the labels on product containers which, depending on the symbols represented , indicate whether the contents are explosive, combustible, flammable, toxic, corrosive or irritant. With all these materials and specific processes, the possibility of coming into contact with hazardous substances is quite high, in fact dangerous chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or randomly ingested. Unfortunately, not all of these substances  are in containers equipped with product safety label. In fact, for example, welding electrodes  are not equipped with this type of information. But luckily the suppliers of hazardous health products are required to provide the material safety data sheets which also list the hazards and protection requirements.

In order to use a hazardous substance without risk one needs to know whether it will react with other substances forming lethal mixtures, perhaps during storage. Furthermore, there is always a risk assessment document in shipyards which lists the risks which have been assessed and also the preventive measures to be taken are listed.

Shipyard hazards

Working in a ship yard is not as simple or easy as it may seem; in fact, it takes just a slight mistake or carelessness to have an accident or to be exposed to hazardous substances which may impact the health and safety of workers both directly and indirectly. Just think of the dangers of radiation or debris flying around or, again, physical injuries caused by protruding objects and slips and falls.These and other accidents may occur and even result in severe injuries or illnesses such as those affecting the respiratory system. Shipyard workers involved with the manufacturing of ships and even those not specifically into that particular aspect of shipyard jobs often receive extremely high exposure to asbestos, making them quite vulnerable to diseases caused by it.

Therefore it is always advisable to use respiratory protective equipment and, better still, to work in environments equipped with vacuum systems. However, shipyards also present other risks which are not always taken into account, such as insulation material residue left on the decks of the ships or in dry docks. These residues should be locked away in special containers immediately and care must be taken not to step on them as this would result in the release of harmful fibres into the working environment.

To conclude, occupational health and safety together with the use of adequate personal protective equipment can reduce shipyard hazards.

Kasco srl provides various types of   respiratory protective devices for protection against harmful substances when working in shipyards.