Rate this article:  

Table of contents


Proper and safe working practices and procedures should be employed at all times. Accident prevention schemes and codes of safe working practices as well as the procedures under the vessel’s SMS must be followed at all times.

A. Safe work planning and supervision
Any work carried out should always be
  • properly planned together with the crew designated to carry out the works
  • if appropriate, be the subject of a risk assessment and, where necessary, a full permit-to-work procedure
  • supervised by a second crew member or even an officer, where necessary.

    B. Safe working during cargo, lashing and securing operations
    For further details please refer to Gard Loss Prevention Circular No. 03-04: Accidents involving crew and stevedores during cargo operations.

    During cargo operations, particular attention is required to prevent endangering the crew or others when they are entering the working area.

    Upon completion of loading or before discharging containers, safe working practices must be employed in lashing and unlashing the containers to prevent slips and falls on slippery container surfaces. Lashing frames and lashing platforms should be used where available, to avoid having to climb onto the top of containers. The Master and his/her officers should not permit any person to be transported on top of a container or any other cargo during lifting operations as this may lead to severe and even fatal personal injuries.

    Unlashing must not be undertaken whilst the vessel is still underway, to prevent crew involved in these tasks falling overboard. Lashing operations must be completed prior to leaving the berth.

    Lifting operations are dangerous in themselves as slings may part, brakes fail or the lifted object may come into contact with other structures causing it to slip out of the slings. Safe working practices must include preventing people from standing directly underneath or near to such lifting operations if not operationally required.

    Prior to working with cranes, it should be established that these are in proper working and serviceable condition. The limit switches must be operable, so that stevedores cannot override the same without written permission. The limit switch keys should be held by the responsible officer at all times and should not be handed over to stevedores.

    The visibility of the crane driver may be restricted during crane operations. In such cases, the Master and his/her officers should ensure that a signal man is posted with proper communication to the crane driver.

    On ro-ro vessels simple communication procedures should be established between the drivers and the crew or personnel directing the drivers. These must be strictly followed.

    The operation of ramps on ro-ro vessels can pose considerable hazards to crew and other personnel. This needs to be identified and protective measures taken before the start of operations to prevent severe personal injuries or even deaths occurring. When operating ramps
  • only trained and experienced personnel should be entrusted with the operational responsibility
  • ensure the correct sequence of operation is followed to prevent jamming the ramp
  • the operator’s view must not be obstructed
  • the operator must ensure that all personnel are cleared off the ramp before the commencement of any operation
  • nobody should be allowed to stand below the ramps.

    If crew members are driving tractors or forklifts, the driver should always have good visibility, keeping sight of persons working on the deck at all times.

    C. Safe working during periods of heavy weather
    Special situations such as heavy weather require special measures. Crew members and passengers have, on occasion, been lost overboard in heavy weather. There should be a policy to
  • prevent crew members or passengers walking or standing on deck in exposed areas during heavy weather
  • prohibit working on deck except for essential safety operations during heavy weather
  • make a public announcement to crew and passengers.

    D. Safe working during drills and training
    Safe working practices must be followed during training and drills, such as launching lifeboats and man overboard boats/rescue boats if these are carried out.

    For vessels built after 1 July 1986, davit suspended lifeboats are fitted with on load release hooks. There have been many accidents with such lifeboats, and seamen have been killed or injured during training and drills. Boats have fallen down due to being accidentally released at the time of the exercise. The reasons for such accidental releases have been found to be human error, lack of training, lack of understanding of how the hook release mechanisms worked, incorrect resetting of hooks the last time the boat was lifted, and lack of maintenance.

    For further details please refer to
  • Gard News 183, The loss of lives in lifeboats with on-load release hooks.

    As different types of release systems are in use, only general advice can be provided in this publication
  • manufacturer’s instructions must be strictly followed at all times to ensure that the lifeboats and life rafts are properly secured and capable of release
  • the crew should be familiar with the manufacturer’s operating instructions from thorough and frequent training and drills
  • the release systems must be regularly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • the lifeboats should first be firmly secured by short, strong wire slings fitted between purpose built strong points of the davits and the boat, to avoid the risk of an accidental release during examination and maintenance of the hook system
  • prior to any drill, the release systems must be checked to ensure that the release hooks are properly set
  • for lifeboat tests and drills, the lifeboat, davits, wires, sheaves blocks and the entire release mechanism should be carefully examined to ascertain that they are in proper working condition. In addition, the sea conditions should be considered. If in any doubt, the test should be postponed and, if permitted under the relevant port regulations, carried out in port rather than at sea.

    Inflatable life rafts are subject to an annual inspection by an external service firm. The Master and his/her officers should ensure that the life rafts and the hydrostatic release mechanisms are correctly installed, enabling the rafts to be easily launched by the crew in an emergency or launched automatically if the vessels sinks and the raft becomes submerged.

    The Master should bear in mind that only a well trained crew, fully familiar with the release mechanisms, can safely and properly operate the lifeboat release systems.

    At no time during training and drills should the personal safety of any crew member be endangered. If such a situation arises, the training or drill must be aborted! The reason for abortion or waiver of the actual launch of the life boat need to be recorded in the vessel’s log book to avoid the next port State control officer complaining of lack of training and drills.

    New SOLAS regulations for the inspection and maintenance of “on-load-release” gear came into force on 1 July 2006, requiring, among other things, an annual inspection and test of such hooks by a representative of the manufacturer. It is imperative that these inspections are carried out by fully competent and authorised personnel, to limit future risks of further accidents with “on-load-release” hooks.

    E. Safe working in unlit or dark stores, holds and rooms
    Safe working practices include sufficient lighting in enclosed workplaces to prevent accidents with machinery or tools, or falls or slips causing personal injury or even death. Crew members entering enclosed spaces from outside should allow some time for their eyes to adjust to the changing light conditions.

    Where appropriate, a full permit-to-work procedure should be followed for entry into enclosed spaces. Please see section Entry into enclosed spaces.

    F. No smoking policy
    For further details please see Gard Loss Prevention Circular 05-00: Fire in the Hold Smoking Policies Onboard Ship.

    Smoking should only be allowed in designated smoking areas.

    Safe working practices include a strictly followed “onboard smoking policy”. There should be a policy of no smoking
  • on all tank vessels
  • on dry cargo vessels during cargo operations and when carrying dangerous goods on deck, even if stowed in containers
  • on deck on all vessels in port
  • in the holds and engine rooms of all vessels
  • in the bunks in cabins.

    “No smoking signs” should be large, legible and clearly visible.