Workplace safety is a top priority for employers in the ship repair and shipbuilding industry. Any given day presents a varied list of potential hazards, whether it be the risk of falls, heat stress, welding fumes, dangerous equipment, or accidents involving handheld tools. A well-trained, supplied, and aware workforce with established safety practices can greatly reduce the likelihood of violations and injuries.
Below, we’ll provide tips and methods on how to mitigate injuries and prevent some of the more common and avoidable shipyard hazards.
Train, Train, Train (And Train Again)
Every effective safety initiative begins with thorough and consistent training programs. Never assume a worker, no matter how skilled or experienced they may be, is up to date and proficient in the latest best practice standards. Don’t assume that one brief training session is an adequate precaution that produces a permanently safe worker—continue to monitor the work habits of employees and reinforce or retrain your safety expectations if you notice incorrect practices.
Be thorough in your assessment of the current risks present in your yard and ensure all staff is keenly aware of the dangers they present and trained in how to avoid them, and not just for themselves, but others around them. Promote a sense of yard-wide awareness among your workforce to further establish a safety-conscious environment.
While every worker is ultimately responsible for themselves, always encourage an environment where safe work habits are valued, shared, and supported throughout the yard.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
There’s a good reason OSHA requires employers to provide appropriate PPE at no cost to all workers (only for the first issue; replacement equipment is charged to the associate)—proper PPE use is one of the most effective (and easiest) practices to reduce workplace injuries.
A recent study conducted by researchers in Singapore and Australia examined a variety of shipyard risk factors including age, risk awareness, experience, PPE availability, and others—nothing ranked with a higher potential to reduce injury than PPE availability.
The study also showed that 14% of respondents reported suffering at least one injury during their most recent tour of duty, and 18% reported that their employers did not always share incident lessons with crew members.
To lower those percentages for your workplace, be certain that you’re up to date on OSHA’s latest suggestions for proper shipyard PPE use for head, eye, face, and foot protection as well as protective clothing and gloves (here’s a link to their latest fact sheet for PPE).
Safe and Proper Use of Handheld Tools
We previously mentioned a few of the inherent safety risks present within a shipyard, including accidents from portable tool use. OSHA recently released a fact sheet addressing this specific safety concern and detailed methods on safe use to prevent serious worker injury (you can find the sheet here). According to OSHA, approximately 200 workplace incidents involving portable and handheld tools occur each year in the maritime industry.
While every tool has its own specific risk if misused, there are a few culprits that appear to cause injury most often. Portable abrasive wheel tools should receive special attention throughout the yard as they regularly eject wheel and workplace fragments that can strike workers in the eyes, face, and exposed skin. Always ensure workers are using proper guard placement on abrasive wheel tools to avoid unnecessary risk.
Additionally, make it common practice to perform regular maintenance and inspection of all other handheld power tools—never use a damaged tool under any circumstance.
For more on OSHA safety recommendations, read our breakdown on OSHA’s Top Ten Worksite Citations for additional tips.
Hire Smarter with Tidewater Staffing
In the shipyard industry, several factors can contribute to employers potentially making a quick hire to address critical staffing shortages. But a quick hire shouldn’t have to mean an incompetent hire. Underqualified, inexperienced workers can pose a serious safety risk to themselves and others.
Because most organizations don’t have a sufficient amount of extra time or resources to thoroughly screen each and every potential hire, partnering with a specialized, experienced staffing firm can dramatically help raise the quality of new hires and thus promote a much safer work environment.
At Tidewater Staffing, our team of industry experts maintains a deep network of qualified, pre-screened candidates ready to get to work for you. We ensure all of our candidates are up to date and trained in the latest OSHA and industry best safety practices.. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you overcome whatever hiring challenge is facing your organization.