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  Reducing Shipbreaking Hazards
Photo: shipbreaking workerOSHA's new national emphasis program focuses on reducing or eliminating workplace hazards in shipbreaking operations. Shipbreaking is the process of dismantling an obsolete vessel's structure for scrap or disposal. Conducted at a pier, drydock, or dismantling slip, it includes a wide range of activities, from removing all gear and equipment to cutting down and recycling the ship.

Shipbreaking is one of the most dangerous work activities in the maritime industry, according to Steve Butler, Chief of OSHA's Division of Maritime Compliance Assistance. This is due to the structural complexity of the ships and the many environmental, safety, and health issues involved. Hazardous exposures include asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, hazardous material and chemicals, excess noise, and fire. Butler says OSHA's national emphasis program gives guidance to OSHA field ofices and state consultation programs providing assistance to employers engaged in shipbreaking operations and sets up a data reporting and collection system for injuries and accidents related to all shipbreaking activities nationally. It also initiates scheduled OSHA inspections of the Navy and Maritime Administration shipbreaking operations and encourages OSHA field offices to establish or continue local emphasis programs for other shipbreaking operations. "This national emphasis program presents a comprehensive, multipronged approach to reduce or eliminate accidents and injuries within the shipbreaking industry," says Butler.

Hazardous Work Activities
  • Entry into confined, enclosed, and other dangerous atmospheres.
  • Paint removal.
  • Metal cutting and disposing.
  • Powered industrial truck operations.
  • Work on elevated surfaces.
  • Bilge and ballast water removal.
  • Oil and fuel removal and tank cleaning.
  • Removal and disposal of ship's machinery.
  • Operations involving cranes, gear, and material handling equipment.
  • Cutting and welding operations and use of compressed gas.
  • Activities involving scaffolds, ladders, and working services.
  • Safe Work Practices
  • Provide adequate worker training.
  • Use proper personal protective equipment.
  • Follow fire protection measures.
  • Arrange availability of appropriate emergency response, rescue, and first-aid personnel and services.
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