On about 60% of the ships that I inspected in 2007 and the first half of 2008, including new and old ships, machine parts were still being hand-washed in diesel in the machine room. Fuel valves were being pressure-tested using diesel, and on many ships there were no extractor fans in these environments. All this despite the fact we are now in 2008! There have been machines for washing motor parts on the market for many years, such as the Vivek type, as well as ecological pressure-testing liquids such as Unitor.
Over the years I have also been worried about the poor work environment on ferries, and in this case I am referring mainly to the catering personnel. On most of the ferries I have inspected, large packages are used for wine, milk, carbonated drinks, flour and so on, and one package often contains 20 litres or more.
The problem is that it is generally women who have to lift these packages onboard and workstations on a ferry are often built according to overall ship design. This means that they are often located in less than ergonomic places. As a result, people working in such workstations risk having problems with their necks and shoulders, and consequently are off sick for long periods.
Fall protection is something which is often overlooked when constructing ships, as well as working positions. Sometimes even new ships look similar to those built in the 19th century (wooden scaffolding) and I have found any number of waist straps on ships, despite these being prohibited many years ago.
No, work environment on ships leaves a lot to be desired. But as I usually say, every step forward is at least not a step backwards.
Karl-Arne Johansson, Seko Sjöfolk