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Four OSHA Maritime Standards To Know

The maritime world is a dangerous place, with workers injured at nearly six times the rate of people in other jobs. Everything from poor weather to a crane malfunction creates hazards that lead to severe accidents for mariners and crew members.

For most US workplaces, the OSHA oversees the regulations put in place to set safety standards to protect workers. OSHA maritime standards have some unique aspects to cover the wide range of hazards and workplaces in the industry, which includes everything from construction to cargo moving. Implementing proper controls and providing training can go a long way to help keep your workers safe.

Let’s take a look at four key standards you should know well and should be a part of any OSHA training courses for your employees.

1. Working Alone Safely

When you consider the size of a marine terminal or a cargo ship, it’s easy to understand how workers can end up working alone at times. Being on their own increases their risks, so some specific regulations apply in those situations. OSHA defines working alone to include:

  • Working alone in a sonar space, hold, or tank
  • Working alone at the far end of a ship or yard
  • Working alone in a confined space
  • Working on opposite sides of a metal partition
  • Hot work done with a fire watch on the other side of a bulkhead

In all these cases, employers must account for each worker throughout the shift to ensure they don't need rescue due to a fall or other injury. The requirements call for checking visually — either in-person or via camera — or verbally — either in-person or via radio or intercom. These checks should be an expected and regular part of the workday for anyone working alone.

2. First Aid and Medical Services

At the core of the OSHA rules around medical help is the need for them to be easily accessible. A big part of that is ensuring there are enough employees trained as first-aid responders scheduled for every work shift. That number is based on:

  • Hazards at site
  • Number of employees
  • Size and location of site
  • Distance to nearest medical services

As those numbers grow, there should be additional responders added to the shift to cover any potential needs. All of these responders need to be provided with proper training for the job, with additional training for anyone using automatic external defibrillators.

The worksite also needs to provide access to outside emergency medical help to respond to an injury or accident. The general rule is that it should take no more than five minutes for providers to reach the site.

The unique nature of a marine worksite like a terminal or cargo loading area requires a few special pieces of equipment as well, including a stretcher, life ring on 90 feet of line, and lifting bridle.

3. Protective Gear

While we expect seat belts in cars, their use around ports and dockyards wasn’t quite so common. They’re just one of many pieces of protective gear regulated for maritime workers who often work from high spots and need the extra protection.

Personal protective gear and good work practices go a long way to keeping workers safe. Activities should be assessed to determine the potential hazards and the appropriate controls. PPE for the maritime industry falls into the following categories:

  • Eye and face
  • Foot
  • Head
  • Clothing and gloves
  • Knee and elbow
  • Hearing
  • Respiratory

When there are multiple risks, the emphasis for the PPE should be on the most severe one.

The expectation is that employers provide the proper gear for their employees and that the gear should be better than the minimum required. The PPE must fit and be comfortable enough that workers will actually wear it.

While employers are to give workers the proper PPE without a cost, there are a few exceptions like everyday clothing or replacing PPE if an employee has lost theirs or intentionally damaged it. It’s worth noting that while one of the exceptions is when employees provide their own, the employer is still responsible for ensuring the PPE fits properly and provide enough protection.

4. Shock Prevention

Electrical hazards present greater problems in a marine environment because workers often stand on metal decks and water is everywhere. Any work involving electrical power needs to follow special guidelines for circuits being de-energized and locked out.

Power can be generated onshore or by a vessel, and electrical work covers servicing machinery, equipment, and electrical systems. Anywhere there’s the potential for an accidental startup or the release of energy, workers should ensure the system they work on has been de-energized.

Power hazards can present as a short, fault, or energized circuit. Because water is a great conductor, workers don’t have to be near the power source to get a shock, so everyone in the area should be notified when work begins. Fortunately, the most common shock-related injury is a burn, but electrocution is a possibility.

Shock hazards can be the result of many things, including defective tools, worn or frayed cables, and corroded connectors due to saltwater contact.

The OSHA standards cover working with permanently installed electrical systems along with temporary installations like extension cords.

Stay On Top of OSHA Maritime Standards

The maritime industry covers a wide range of workplaces, all of which present unique hazards to your workers. Because companies can pull from the OSHA maritime standards or other OSHA rules to ensure safety in the workplace, it’s important to stay on top of all the regulations that relate to the field. These include those for shipyards, marine terminals, longshoring, and boat crews.

The easiest way to keep up with the various OSHA standards is regular training for those responsible for workplace safety. Contact us to learn more about our online OSHA training and other courses to keep you in compliance.

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