Ship building, repair, and breaking operations can be complicated, but the safety principles are simple: get training for your job tasks, know the hazards of the materials you use, and follow safe work practices. You may encounter confined and enclosed work spaces while performing ship operations. Get training on confined space work and the safety requirements. A competent person should identify the confined and enclosed spaces on a ship, determine if atmospheric testing is needed, and plan access procedures. Spaces that are low or high in oxygen, toxic, or flammable should be labeled with the hazard. Don’t enter hazardous spaces without proper training and emergency equipment.  

Get training on arc welding, including electricity and hazardous fumes. Work in well-ventilated areas. Use local-exhaust ventilation or a supplied-air respirator when welding stainless steel, lead, zinc, beryllium, copper, or cadmium. Avoid the use of chlorinated solvents and decontaminate work surfaces before welding. 

Wear gloves, caps, and coveralls to protect skin from burns and damaging ultraviolet rays. Use shaded goggles with side shields and screening to protect your and coworkers’ eyes from UV and radiant energy. To reduce reflections, wear dark clothing and non-reflective helmets and shields. Cover combustible cotton clothing. Keep flame-resistant blankets and pads available.

Arc welding occurs in all weather, in and outdoors. Changing electrodes with bare hands, wet gloves, or while standing on a wet or grounded surface can lead to electric shock. Use safe, dry work methods. Inspect leads, cables, and electrode holders before each use. Maintain welding electrode holder insulation and protect it from damage.

Ships old and new can contain hazardous substances such as lead, asbestos, chromium, flammable fuels, and other chemicals. Be aware of the materials and hazards within the ship. Know proper handling procedures, safe work practices, and disposal methods. Use required personal protective equipment (PPE). Know how to contain and clean up spills. Keep emergency spill materials and fire-fighting equipment on ship near work areas and on shore. 

Eye injuries from dust, dirt, and metal debris are common to ship workers. Wear protective eyewear. Never blow into your goggles, glasses, visors, or respirators because dust can blow back into your eyes. Instead, use wet cleaning wipes. Rubbing your eyes grinds dust into them; rinse with water or saline solution. Tools on large, hollow, metal ship structures create high noise levels, leading to hearing loss. Monitor for noise levels and get periodic hearing exams. Use hearing protection when required. 

Falls can be very dangerous on a ship. Cover or barricade all deck openings. Install railings at elevated work areas. Use scaffolds or ladders to access high work areas. Wear fall protection if you work at an unprotected height. Protect elevated areas near water and have water rescue equipment available on ship and shore.

Awkward postures can be required for ship work. To prevent ergonomic injuries, lift properly and maintain good posture with a straight back. Keep your work close to you and avoid reaching. Rotate your tasks and take frequent micro-breaks to avoid fatigue.