OSHA Proposes Updating Shipyard Employment Standards

Dec. 21, 2007
For the first time in 35 years, OSHA proposed to update its shipyard employment standards (29 FR subpart F) to reduce hazards and provide greater protection for shipyard workers.

“Working in shipyards is one of the most hazardous occupations in the nation,” said OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. “Shipyard employees perform industrial operations such as abrasive blasting and welding, operate heavy equipment and often work in confined spaces onboard vessels. This proposed rule would help reduce the hazards these employees face.”

The revisions would update existing requirements, which include establishing minimum lighting for certain worksites, accounting for employees at the end of work-shifts if they work in confined spaces or alone in isolated spaces and adding uniform criteria to ensure shipyards have an adequate number of appropriately trained first aid providers. The proposal also updates sanitation requirements.

Additionally, the updated rule would add new provisions, such as controlling hazardous energy and motor vehicle safety, to reflect advances in industry practices and technology. The proposal also would cross reference general industry standards that are already applicable to shipyard employment or that OSHA intends to apply.

OSHA will accept comments on the proposed rule until March 19, 2008.

OSHA: Shipyard Work “One of the Riskiest” Jobs in U.S.

According to OSHA, the hazards associated with these work activities associated with shipyard work – steel fabrication, welding electrical work, etc. – are heightened because they are often performed outdoors in all kinds of weather, onboard vessels, in confined or enclosed spaces below deck, on scaffolds and on busy and crowded docks filled with equipment and material. As a result, the agency deemed it as “one of the riskiest occupations in the United States.”

“The combination of these hazards presents a significant risk of injury to shipyard employees whether they are working on vessels or at landside operations,” the agency said in the Dec. 20 Federal Register where they published their notice of proposed rulemaking.

When reviewing accident data of shipyard fatality rates from OSHA’s Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) accident database, it was revealed that 231 fatal shipyard accidents occurred during the years 1987-2002, which is an average of 15 shipyard fatalities each year The figures were consistent with data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, which reported 155 shipyard fatalities from 1992-2002 or an average of 14 fatalities per year.

According to BLS, during most of those years the fatality rate in shipyard employment was about twice the rate for all private industry combined.

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