Personal Health for Marines
It is the seafarer’s responsibility to look after his own health and fitness. High standards of personal cleanliness and hygiene should be maintained.
Good health depends on an even and thoughtful balance of work, rest and active play, on sensible and regular meals, on adequate sleep and an avoidance of excesses of rich food, alcohol and tobacco. It is important to take a balanced and nutritionally rich diet whilst at sea.
On board ship, simple infections can easily be spread from one person to others. Thus preventive measures, as well as easily effective treatment, are essential.
Cuts and abrasions should be cleansed at once and given first aid treatment as necessary to protect against infection.
Many serious infections can be guarded against by inoculation and vaccination. These should be kept up to date as necessary to meet the requirements of the international voyages to be undertaken.
The risk of contracting malaria in certain parts of the world can be much reduced by taking precautions to avoid bites from mosquitoes carrying the disease, e.g. by the use of mosquito wire-screening and nets, keeping openings closed, and the use of anti-mosquito preparations or insecticides. Clothing also affords a degree of protection against mosquito bites and seafarers should therefore avoid going about after dusk with any part of the arms or legs exposed.
On a ship bound for a malarious port all members of the crew should also take appropriate anti-malarial medication to control the risk of infection. The most effective treatment varies geographically according to the nature and resistance of local malarial germs.
Barrier creams may help to protect exposed skin against dermatitis and also make thorough cleaning easier.
Prolonged exposure to mineral oils may cause dermatitis and skin cancer. All traces of oil should be thoroughly washed from the skin but hydrocarbon solvents should be avoided. Working clothes should be laundered frequently. Oil-soaked rags should not be put in pockets.
Anthrax is a dangerous disease. It can be contracted by handling the hides, wool, bristles, bones, horns, hooves or other products from infected animals and from any wrapping materials which have contained them. Overalls, head covering and protective gloves should be worn to protect the skin as far as possible.
Rats and other rodents may be carriers of infection and should never be handled, dead or alive, with bare hands.
Inadvertent exposure to or contact with toxic chemicals or other harmful substances should be reported immediately and the appropriate remedial action taken.
Prolonged exposure to synthetic domestic cleaners and detergents is a potential cause of alkali (de-fatting) dermatitis. Cotton-lined rubber or PVC gloves should be worn when using such substances.
Some domestic substances, for example caustic soda and bleaching powders or liquids, can burn the skin. They may react dangerously with other substances and ought not to be mixed indiscriminately.
High humidity and heat can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke which may be fatal. When working in these conditions it is advisable to drink at least 4.5 litres (8 pints) of cool (but not iced) water daily. It is best to take small quantities at frequent intervals. Extra salt is essential; this can be in the form of two salt tablets four times a day or a level teaspoonful of table salt in plenty of water each morning and again in the evening, or added to food. If the work is in enclosed spaces, they should be well ventilated.
In tropical areas especially, exposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day should be avoided as far as possible. When it is necessary to work in very strong sunlight, appropriate clothing offering protection to both head and body should be worn, whatever the degree of acclimatization may be.
Where it is required to work in exceptionally hot and/or humid conditions or when wearing respiratory equipment, it should be recognized that breaks at intervals in the fresh air or in the shade may be necessary.
Misuse of alcohol or drugs affects a person’s fitness for duty and harms his/her health. The immediate after-effects may increase liability to accidents. Drinking alcohol whilst under treatment with prescribed drugs should be avoided, since even common remedies such as aspirin, seasickness tablets or codeine may be dangerous in conjunction with alcohol.
As a general rule fresh fruit and salad should be thoroughly washed in fresh water before being eaten.
Coughs and lung damage can be caused by breathing irritant dust. This may be produced by many different substances to which the general guidance in Section “Substances hazardous to health” applies. Dust containing asbestos fibers is particularly hazardous since this can cause lung cancer and other serious lung diseases when inhaled (see Section “Asbestos Dust”). The risk is usually much greater for a person who smokes than for a non-smoker.
Clothing should be chosen to minimize working risks.
Working clothes should be close-fitting with no loose flaps, bulging pockets or ties, since injuries may result from clothing being caught up by moving parts of machinery or garments catching on obstructions or projections and causing falls. Clothing worn in galleys etc. where there is a risk of burning or scalding should adequately cover the body to minimize this risk and be of a material of low flammability such as cotton or a cotton/terylene mix. Clothes should be kept in good repair.
Shirts or overalls provide better protection if they have long sleeves. Long sleeves should not be rolled up.
Scarves, sweat rags and other neck wear, loose clothing, finger rings and jewelry can be hazards when working with machinery. Long hair should be covered.
Sandals and plimsolls are dangerous and should not be worn when working, since they offer little protection against accidental scalds or burns or falling objects and add to the risks of tripping and falling or slipping on ladders (as do old, worn out, down-at-heel shoes). The wearing of appropriate industrial or safety footwear, which can be of good appearance, is recommended.
Gloves are a sensible precaution when handling sharp or hot objects but may easily be trapped on drum ends and in machinery. Whilst loose-fitting gloves allow hands to slip out readily, they do not give a good grip on ladders. Wet or oily gloves may be slippery and great care should be taken when working in them.
Most of this Code deals with foreseeable risks arising in particular places and in performing particular jobs, but accidents may happen at any time in any part of the ship. Many such accidents can be prevented by always keeping things ship-shape and doing things in an orderly fashion.
Wear and tear on a ship in service give rise to minor deficiencies in the structure, equipment or furnishings; for example, protruding nails and screws, loose fittings and handles, uneven and damaged flooring, rough and splintered edges to woodwork and jamming doors, any of which may cause cuts, bruises or trips and falls. They should be put right as soon as they are noticed.
If asbestos-containing panels, cladding or insulation work loose or are damaged in the course of a voyage, pending proper repair, the exposed edges or surfaces should be protected by a suitable coating or covering to prevent asbestos fibres being released and dispersed in the air (see also section: “Asbestos Dust”).
Flickering lights usually indicate faults in wiring or fittings which may cause electric shock or fires. They should be investigated and repaired by a competent person. Failed light bulbs should be replaced as soon as possible.
Instruction plates, notices and operating indicators should be kept clean and legible.
Heavy objects, particularly if at a height above deck level should be stowed securely against the movement of the ship or inadvertent displacement. Similarly, furniture etc. likely to fall or shift during heavy weather should be properly secured.
Doors whether open or closed, should be properly secured; they should not be left swinging.
Litter may present a fire risk or cause slips or falls, but in any case may conceal some other hazard.
Tidiness not only makes hidden defects apparent but ensures that articles are in their proper place to be found as required.
In carrying out any task, possible risks to other persons should be considered; for example, if water from a careless hosing-down of the deck enters a galley through an open light or scuttle, it may be most dangerous to galley staff.
Care is needed in personal matters. Dangerous articles such as razor blades and lighted cigarette ends should be disposed of safely.
Many aerosols have volatile and inflammable contents. They should never be used or placed near naked flames or other heat source even when ’empty’. Empty canisters should be properly disposed of.
Some fumigating or insecticidal sprays contain ingredients which though perhaps in themselves harmless to human beings, may be decomposed when heated. Smoking may be dangerous in sprayed atmospheres while the spray persists.
Substances hazardous to health.
Many substances found on ships are capable of damaging the health of those exposed to them. They include not only substances displaying hazard warning labels (e.g. on dangerous goods cargoes and ships’ stores) but also, for example, a range of dusts, fumes and fungal spores from goods, plant or activities aboard ship.
Whenever crew members work in the presence of substances hazardous to health the employer or the Master should ensure that any risks from exposure are assessed and appropriate measures taken to prevent or control them. The assessment should include consideration of any necessary precautionary measures both for crew members and other affected groups (e.g. stevedores and maintenance personnel). Failure to protect workers exposed to hazardous substances in this way could result in prosecution.
Employers should instruct, inform and train crew so that they know and understand the risks arising from their work, the precautions to be taken and the results of any monitoring of exposure.
The health risk from a substance hazardous to health should be assessed by a competent person who should look at each hazard from each of the following viewpoints: the identity, concentration, form and possible harmful effects of the hazardous substance, including any harmful products; the likely exposure for the work in hand; and the number of people (crew members and others) who will be in contact (they should be identified). The risks to crew members and other persons should be assessed individually. Where appropriate the risks to different categories of person should be considered separately.
All types of asbestos have a fibrous structure and can produce harmful dust if the surface exposed to the air is damaged or disturbed. The danger is not immediately obvious because the fibers which damage the lungs and can cause lung cancer are too small to be seen with the naked eye; Asbestos which is in good condition is unlikely to release fibers, but where the material is damaged or deteriorating, or work is undertaken on it, airborne fibers can be released.
Dry asbestos is much more likely to produce dust than asbestos that is thoroughly wet or oil-soaked. Asbestos is particularly likely to occur on older vessels in old insulation and paneling, but certain asbestos compounds may also be found on other vessels in machinery components such as gaskets and brake linings.
Shipowners should advise Masters of any location where asbestos is known or believed to be present oh their ship. Masters and/or safety officers should keep a written record of this information and should also note any other position where asbestos is suspected, but they should not probe or disturb any suspect substance. Crew members who work regularly near asbestos or a substance likely to contain it should be warned of the need for caution and should report any deterioration in its condition such as cracking or flaking.
If it is essential to carry out emergency repairs liable to create asbestos dust while the ship is at sea strict precautions, including the use of the appropriate protective clothing and respiratory protective equipment.