Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor

Process: Shipfitting



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.

Resource Materials:

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 OSHA website.

Additional information is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP) at:

The diversity and dynamics of shipboard electrical work make it impossible to list all applicable standards in this document. 29 CFR Part 1915 applies to all ship repairing, shipbuilding and shipbreaking employment and its related activities, including shipboard electrical work.  In some cases (e.g., work practices) the General Industry Standards contained in 29 CFR Part 1910 may be applicable (1910.333 – 1910.399).  Guidance for applicability of standards can be found in OSHA's Shipyard Employment "Tool Bag" Directive, CPL 02-00-142 dated August 3, 2006. This directive is located on the OSHA website.

Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for
Occupational Safety and Health

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