To investigate the frequency, circumstances, and causes of occupational accidents aboard merchant ships in international trade, and to identify risk factors for the occurrence of occupational accidents as well as dangerous working situations where possible preventive measures may be initiated.
The study is a historical follow up on occupational accidents among crew aboard Danish merchant ships in the period 1993-7. Data were extracted from the Danish Maritime Authority and insurance data. Exact data on time at risk were available.
A total of 1993 accidents were identified during a total of 31 140 years at sea. Among these, 209 accidents resulted in permanent disability of 5% or more, and 27 were fatal. The mean risk of having an occupational accident was 6.4/100 years at sea and the risk of an accident causing a permanent disability of 5% or more was 0.67/100 years aboard. Relative risks for notified accidents and accidents causing permanent disability of 5% or more were calculated in a multivariate analysis including ship type, occupation, age, time on board, change of ship since last employment period, and nationality. Foreigners had a considerably lower recorded rate of accidents than Danish citizens. Age was a major risk factor for accidents causing permanent disability. Change of ship and the first period aboard a particular ship were identified as risk factors. Walking from one place to another aboard the ship caused serious accidents. The most serious accidents happened on deck.
It was possible to clearly identify work situations and specific risk factors for accidents aboard merchant ships. Most accidents happened while performing daily routine duties. Preventive measures should focus on workplace instructions for all important functions aboard and also on the prevention of accidents caused by walking around aboard the ship.
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