Inside the Issues



*Staying safe while you are at sea is as important as stay healthy
*Photo: Steven Bruijneel,

Staying safe while you are at sea is as important as staying healthy. 

Working at sea can expose you to particular risks. Seafarers have a one in 11 chance of being injured on their tour of duty – much higher than other occupations.

How do I stay safe on board?

Slips, trips and falls are the biggest hazard at sea – with the danger of fractured or sprained limbs. Decks and gangways are the most injury-prone areas so be sure to watch your footing at sea. It is also important to exercise, eat healthily and avoid fatigue. The fitter you are, the more alert you will be.

Are there guidelines available?

If you work on cruise ships or passenger vehicles, you also need to take the safety of passengers into account. ITF has specific policy advice for best practice in ensuring the safety of yourself, your crewmates and your passengers. See the link on the right of this page for more information.

The ILO code of practice for accident prevention on board ship at sea and in port provides practical recommendations and useful guidance. These include the establishment of a safety and health committee on all ships, with elected seafarers’ safety representatives. Further information is available on the right of the page.

ITF has produced a training video for ships' safety representatives. This aims to assist crew and safety reps to improve on-board safety culture, and how to avoid and deal with any accidents. The video is available for viewing as a link on the right of this page.

ITF is developing a specific policy on health and safety in shipping. This will provide practical guidance to ITF seafarers’ affiliates, their shop stewards, shipboard representatives and members on safety and health in shipboard work.

Why do accidents happen at sea?

Accidents can happen when ships are under pressures to meet unrealistic schedules with too few crew. Owners sometimes cut corners by not maintaining the ship and its equipment, increasing the risks. Ships registered under Flags of Convenience have fewer regulations, and greater potential for unsafe practices.

The risks can be minimised where crews are fully trained in the safe running of the ship. Ship owners should also provide medical care and social support.

Have you had an accident?

Seek advice on any first aid issue – radio medical advice is available throughout the world, in port or at sea, and your ship's master is obliged to be fully conversant with radio medical procedures.

Make sure you report any accident on board. This will help maintain the safety of the ship for current and future crew members. You will also stand a better chance of receiving any compensation.

The ITF has dedicated claims handlers to assist seafarers and their families in claims for compensation following injury or death. If you have suffered an accident, please contact the ITF and/or your union without delay, using the link on the right of this page.

We will advise you of the best way in which your claim can be handled and, if necessary, will take it up directly with the agents and owners to negotiate the best possible compensation for you.