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Precautions while Working Aloft

On board ships, seafarers are often required to work at heights wearing safety harnesses and other important equipment. However, in spite of taking all the necessary precautions, several crew members have lost their lives or suffered permanent injuries as a result of falling/slipping from heights, failure of safety devices, falling inside cargo hold during inspection and also due to sheer negligence.

While working aloft or at a height, a number of precautionary measures need to be taken and bosun chairs, stage boards or scaffolding should be prepared.

Summarized below are some basic checks prior to working aloft. These procedures are only indicative, not exhaustive in nature and one must always be guided by practices of good seamanship.

1. A proper pre-meeting should be held before commencing the work; 2. The personnel should be clearly instructed of work scope, procedure and precautions to be taken; 3. Personnel who are carrying out the work should be physically fit; 4. Personnel carrying out the work must wear all appropriate clothing; 5. Personnel carrying out the work should be provided with adequate personal protective equipment; 6. Condition and strength of safety harnesses, lifelines, safety belts should be properly checked; 7. Equipment to be used must be correctly and properly rigged and measures must be taken to prevent damage by chafing; 8. Bosun chairs, stage boards, scaffoldings & ladders should be checked for good condition; 9. Condition and strength of ropes and lifelines must also be checked; 10. All anti-falling measures for tools must be taken into consideration; 11. Rolling period and wind speed must be taken into consideration to find out if the work can be carried out safely or not; 12. Traffic under the working site must be prohibited; and 13. Personnel should be notified of working in vicinity of radar scanner, aerials and funnel & whistle; 14. Warning notices must be posted at proper places to avoid accident by use of such equipment during working; 15. Watchman must be posted where working crew is insufficient to take appropriate measures to prevent accidents; and 16. If portable ladders are used, it must be checked if they have been set correctly at suitable places. Fatal accidents do not occur only while working aloft. Several lives have been lost when seafarers have slipped/tripped and fallen from heights.

The following important measures must be taken to prevent slips/trips/falls:

1. Ensure adequate lighting are fixed at all places on ships where chances of slips and trips are high; 2. All hazards/obstructions must be identified clearly and marked; 3. Non-slip surfaces should be in place and properly maintained; 4. Personnel must use appropriate footwear; 5. Working areas on board ships must follow good housekeeping by clearing oil, rubbish and equipment at the end of work; 6. All working areas must be provided with good access controls such as guardrails, wires; 7. Personnel must wear all safety equipment and also use harness/nets etc. while working at places where chances of falls are high; and 8. Adequate first aid facilities must be kept ready.

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