When assessing the risks involved with working in the marine environment, slips and falls don’t always come to
mind because of risks like capsizing, pirate attacks and explosions are discussed more often. While these serious accidents can occur, the fact is that slip and fall accidents commonly cause maritime injuries – more than any other
risk.

The marine environment has rarely been spoken about when it comes to slip and fall accidents, but the motions of a ship can trigger more personal injuries in employees than any other industry.

Marine Environment Acceptable Coefficient Of Friction (CoF)

The marine environment has introduced a significant number of factors when it comes to analyzing slip and fall accidents that are usually not considered in others. According to data from the US National Library of Medicine, theThree shipping vessels acceptable standard is that a 0.5 or above value for the static anti-slip coefficient of friction (CoF) is regarded as safe on dry walkways, but this value may not be safe when it comes to walkways for the marine industry.

Like the marine environment, there are a few more exceptions to this rule. For instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines stipulate that 0.6 for level surfaces and 0.8 for ramps are minimum CoFs for the disability industry.

Factors That Influence Slip Resistance On Marine Vessels

When it comes to the marine industry, these guidelines in isolation are not enough to determine slip resistance. Footwear should also be a consideration, we wrote about this here. Here are some factors that may influence slip resistance on marine vessels:

  • The guidelines refer to same-level floor falls, but decks and floors on ships and vessels are not always level. They are usually fitted with sheers, cambers, and trims.
  • Structural bends during construction can also affect the coefficient of friction factor.
  • The presence of water on working areas and walking surfaces is common and can prove hazardous for slips and falls.

Is It Easier To Experience Slips And Falls In The Marine Industry?

The marine industry faces a greater risk of slip and fall accidents than any other industry for a myriad of reasons:

  • Wet floors are not properly cured with anti-skid materials.
  • Loose lines and insufficient non-skid paint.
  • Improper inclines and angles for stairways.
  • Loose ladders.
  • Hazardous areas are poorly marked.
  • Railings and nets for fall prevention are absent.
  • Vessels experience extreme movement in rough seas or because of poor navigation.
  • Employees are not given proper training on procedures and safety.
  • Safety standards are not regularly inspected.
  • Lighting is poor in hazardous areas.
  • Cargo is not stored poorly.
  • Machinery and equipment are not stored properly.
  • Improper housekeeping procedures on the vessel.

Employees or even passengers can slip and fall on marine vessels for any of these reasons. The injuries may range from bruises and cuts to death. With so much at stake, it is in everyone’s best interest to adhere to the safety standards documented by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Unfortunately, many employers and companies attempt to cut corners when it comes to safety to save some money. Doing this causes preventable slip and fall injuries that should ideally never have transpired in the first place.

Injuries Common To Marine Slip And Fall AccidentsSailors holding hose pipe

A slip and fall accident aboard a marine vessel or within a maritime setting could result in severe injuries because of the wet surface, cargo, and equipment around. Some injuries common to marine slip and fall accidents include:

  • Torn ligaments.
  • Ankle or wrist sprains.
  • Injuries to knees and ankles.
  • Shoulder, back and neck injuries.
  • Internal injuries and bleeding.
  • Brain traumas.
  • Partial or severe paralysis.
  • Injuries to the spinal cord.
  • Severe head concussions.
  • Broken bones.
  • Loss of life.

The continuous wave motions and sleek surfaces aboard marine vessels increase the risk of slip and fall accidents. Although slipping sounds minor, the fact is that it can lead to some serious injuries and even loss of life. Most of these slip and fall accidents can be prevented with proper precautionary measures beforehand.

Factors Influencing CoF In Dry Areas Of Marine Vessels

The CoF for dry areas of a vessel may be influenced by three specific factors:

Fabrication Tolerance Of Aluminum Or Steel

The American Society for Testing and Materials has created a guide for the construction of steel hull tolerances. These are signified as ASTM F1053/F 1053M-94 and cover permissible distortions, deviations, and errors in construction. However, no provision has been made for deck plate waviness. Deck plate waviness can cause the CoF to increase or decrease by 5 to 10 percent.

Trim, Camber And Sheer On The Walk Areas

The walk areas of any marine vessel are envisioned to be horizontal or at least as much as possible when the vessel design is being planned. But several loading situations can result in the walk areas distorting, which means they are not horizontal. Most vessels also have some trims, cambers and sheers on the walk areas, which can affect the coefficient of friction by a significant amount based on the type of vessel and its location.

Motion Of The Marine Vessel

Marine vessels are always floating in the sea. This floating action means that the vessel is never at a complete standstill. Even when the marine vessel is parked against a dock, factors like wind, waves, currents and vessel wakes can cause some motion. These constant motions will affect the measurement of the coefficient of friction.

Problem Of Hydroplaning In Wet AreasNavy boat cleaning

Apart from the factors influencing the coefficient of friction in dry areas, another factor can affect the coefficient of friction in wet areas, which can increase the risk of slip and falls in areas where water levels are substantial. Hydroplaning typically occurs when people walk fast on decks wet with water puddles.

The term hydroplaning is used to depict sliding of skidding of car tires along wet surfaces where it encounters more water than can be scattered. Water pressure pushes water under the tire, which means that the tire surface loses grip of the road surface and loses traction. The result is a loss of control of the car. The same principles can be applied to people walking on wet deck areas with rubber soles.

Hydroplaning is considered a problematic factor in wet areas and has been judiciously examined to check the effect of rubber against floor surfaces. The sole of any shoe in motion can cause pressure and water to build up under its surface because of its interaction with the water. The result is that the sole loses grip on the floor surface, which can result in slip and fall accidents on a wet deck.

OSHA Standards For The Marine Industry

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stipulated that 15 percent of all accidental deaths are because of slips, falls and trips in the general industry. OSHA has set certain standards with respect to walking surfaces for shipyard employment, long-shoring and marine terminals in relation to the marine industry.

According to OSHA, marine employers (like all employers) are responsible for providing a safe workplace, which is free from recognized hazards. The workplace flooring must comply with relevant industry standards and regulations. OSHA also encourages employers to accommodate an Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which can potentially reduce the number of slip and fall accidents at the workplace.

The marine environment considers several more factors when analyzing slip and fall accidents in comparison to any other industry or situation because of the higher levels of risk involved. This means that greater care must be taken to minimize the risk of slip and fall accidents aboard marine vessels.