Marine health and safety: What do you need to know?

Shipping is one of the world’s oldest and most universally recognised industries. Countries all over the world, rich and poor, east and west, have active shipping industries which cover a diverse array of commercial activities, from tourism and transportation to marine science, fishing and offshore activities such as oil and gas.

Shipping is not only one of the world’s most active industries; it is also one of the most dangerous. To reduce the risk of serious injury or harm, if you operate a seagoing or small commercial vessel, it is essential you protect the health and safety of your workers by:

  • Following agreed codes of practice and safety standards
  • Checking and maintaining the safety of equipment and machinery
  • Ensuring all workers possess the required qualifications
  • Introducing formal emergency procedures and equipment
  • Providing appropriate medical care and health protection for your workers
  • Conducting frequent risk assessments
  • Supplying the relevant protective clothing and equipment
  • Keeping up to date with the latest marine safety recommendations
  • Discussing health and safety matters with your workers and their representatives

The 10 step guide to marine health and safety

  1.   Risk assessments – You must conduct regular assessments to identify areas that could trigger an accident, injury or illness and take measures to reduce these risks.
  2.   Safe working practices – It is a legal requirement to carry the latest copy of marine safety working practices if you operate a vessel other than a pleasure craft or a fishing boat. This must be made available to any seaman upon request.
  3. Protective equipment – Clothing and equipment which fits, meets the required standard and is easily accessible must be worn by any worker performing a dangerous task.
  4. Noise and vibration – Risk assessments must be conducting to identify those at risk from excessive noise or vibration and measures should be implemented to remove or reduce the risk.
  5. Small commercial boats – Those operating small commercial vessels must make their boats safe for workers. This includes: fitting guardrails or bulwarks around the working deck; fitting and securing safety harnesses for those working on deck and installing non-slip deck surfaces.
  6. Passenger vessels – Any ship that carries over 12 passengers must meet minimum marine safety requirements for: staffing levels; suitability of vessel construction; the implementation of health and safety policies; pollution prevention and carrying safety equipment onboard.
  7. Inland waters – Passenger vessels operating on lakes, rivers, estuaries and canals must adhere to the guidelines laid out by the relevant water authority.
  8. Marine engineering – It is your responsibility to protect the safety of crew members tasked with operating equipment such as: machinery installations; computerised equipment; emergency equipment and boilers.
  9. Fire prevention – Personnel onboard the vessel must know how to act in the event of a fire at sea. The amount of fire prevention equipment each ship must have differs depending on its size.
  10. Safety in port – Risk assessments should be carried out to identify and reduce or remove the dangers faced in port. Risks typically include: manual handling of heavy goods; mooring; container handling and cargo storage.


With such a diverse range of inherent dangers, it is essential vessel operators do all they can to identify and reduce the risks seaman face to create and maintain a safe working environment. For more information about marine health and safety training, please call today on 0818 333 212 or complete our online enquiry form.