OSHA Initiates Program to Safeguard Shipbreaking Workers

OSHA recently announced a national emphasis program to increase\r\nfederal inspections of shipbreaking operations to reduce or eliminate\r\nworkplace hazards in the industry.

OSHA recently announced a national emphasis program to increase federal inspections of shipbreaking operations to reduce or eliminate workplace hazards in the industry.

Shipbreaking, also know as ship scrapping and ship disposal, involves breaking down of a vessel''s structure, including the removal of all gear and equipment.

It is considered to be one of the most dangerous segments of the maritime industry.

Over the next five years, it is projected that the U.S. Navy will dispose of more than 60 warships. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) will scrap more than 50 large vessels, while the U.S. Coast Guard will break up more than 200 small- to mid-sized vessels.

The national emphasis program calls for OSHA area offices to begin conducting targeted inspections of known shipbreaking operations.

Additionally, OSHA''s regional administrators will ensure that annual programmed comprehensive inspections are conducted for every Navy and MARAD vessel undergoing shipbreaking operations.

The inspections will focus on common hazards or workplace activities likely to cause injury or illness among workers.

Among those are: asbestos, PCB and lead exposure; hazard communication; confined spaces; hearing conservation; fire prevention, personal protective equipment, emergency response and first aid; cutting and welding; paint removal, powered industrial truck operations; oil/fuel removal and tank cleaning; cranes; scaffolding; and fall protection.

The program comes on the heels of a 1999 Memorandum of Agreement between OSHA and the Departments of Defense and Transportation, and EPA that established numerous requirements and responsibilities designed to reduce work-related injuries, illnesses and environmental hazards during ship scrapping operations.

The program is also in line with OSHA''s five year strategic plan to reduce injuries and illnesses in targeted areas, including the shipyard industry.

by Virginia Foran

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