U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Shipfitting is a physically demanding job. Shipfitters construct entirely new vessels, sections of vessels, overhaul vessels, and repair damaged vessels. This includes work on the hull as well as the interior bulkheads and hatches. Wherever they work, they may be handling heavy materials, lifting, climbing, fitting, and sometimes working high above the ground. Specific tasks may include: laying out, positioning, aligning and securing sections; welding steel material together, and cutting steel. Shipfitters are routinely being exposed to hazards that may result in falls, burns, shocks, traumatic or acute injuries, eye injuries and heat stress. Shipfitters often perform tasks that exposes them to more than one type of hazard.
Prevention of injuries, illnesses and fatalities in shipfitting starts first with hazard identification and awareness. Making employees aware of potential hazards and methods of prevention allows employees to actively participate in their own protection. The most efficient way to address identified workplace hazards is during the design and the purchasing of material because it can prevent some hazards from ever being introduced into the workplace. Other injury and illness prevention methods in shipfitting include engineering controls (e.g., ventilation), good work practices, and appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g., respiratory protection, eye and face protection, hearing protection and protective clothing). Regular safety and health inspections and maintenance programs also help to prevent accidents by ensuring that tools and other equipment are in proper working order and by identifying tools and equipment that need to be removed for service.
Sharing workable solutions gained from practical experiences of employers and employees should provide
the end user with information that they easily implement in their work. The practices in this guidesheet reflect real world experiences in shipyards, and are practices that are in use in the industry. The information in this guidesheet was obtained from the shipyards, and their experiences serve as the primary source of information.
This document does not address ergonomic exposures. Extensive research has been done on ergonomic exposures and possible solutions in shipyard employment. Information on ergonomics related guidance can be found on the
Additional information is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Shipfitting. OSHA Safety and Health Injury Prevention Sheets (SHIPS), (2008, August).
Also available as a 2 MB PDF, 20 pages.
and the National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP) at the following respective web addresses:
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for
Occupational Safety and Health