Maritime Occupational Accidents And Its Underlying Causes


  • Slips, trips, and falls are on the same level as the top immediate causal factor for injuries, while the fall overboard of a person is the top immediate causal factor for fatalities.
  • Dislocations, sprains and strains, bone fractures, wounds, and superficial injuries make up over 76% of the occupational injury types.
  • The back, including the spine and vertebra in the back, upper extremities, head, lower extremities make up the top five injured body parts.
  • Ship decks, accommodation, and engine room are the top three locations where the highest number of occupational accidents occur.
  • Dry cargo ships, particularly bulk carriers, have the highest fatality rates, while passenger ships appear to have the highest less serious injury rates.

A new report commissioned by Lloyd’s Register Foundation reveals that current reporting systems for maritime occupational accidents prevent visibility of underlying causation.

Causes of injuries

After examining the immediate causal factors from different sources, and by scanning all the available information from publications, online grey reports, or annual statistics, it is clear that slips, trips, and falls appear as the top causal factor for injuries and fatalities onboard ships.

Injury types

The most common injury types, based on the administration database, are listed as:

  • Strain, sprain, or twist (20.4%);
  • Break or fracture (%18.3);
  • Bruising (15.5%);
  • Cut or piercing injury (11.5%);
  • Burns (4.9%).

Data sets also indicate other common injury types, such as striking injury (24.4%), crush or trap injury (8.5%), foreign body in eye/body (6.4%).

The MAIB 2018 database shows similar trends, indicating dislocation, sprain and strains (38%), bone fracture (29%), wounds and superficial injuries (14%), traumatic amputations (loss of body parts) (5.2%), and other specified injuries not included under other headings (6.1%).



Parts of body injured

Lefkowitz studied the injury, illness, and disability risk in American seafarers and reported that upper extremities, lower extremities, and back injuries make up 77% of the body parts injured.

The MAIB 2018 annual report also presents that those three body parts make up 85% of the body parts injured.

Jensen further reported that 66% of total nonfatal occupational injuries were accounted for by the upper and lower extremities.

In addition, Hansen studied Danish maritime accidents between 1993 and 1997. Among these, 209 accidents resulted in a permanent disability of 5% or more, and 27 were fatal.

Hansen stated that chronic lumbar problems, lost fingers, chronic knee problems, dysfunctional wrist or hand are linked to 5% of disability and make up 41% of the injuries.

Chronic lumbar and ankle problems, incapacity of shoulder function, slight brain damage are linked to 8% of disability and make up 25% of the injuries, while severe chronic lumbar problems, severe incapacity of shoulder, wrist, or ankle are linked to 10% of disability and make up 10.5% of the injuries.

High-risk locations and activities on board

Hansen et al. identified the most common locations of occupational accidents and associated activities under four groups:

  • Work on deck (e.g. lashing and unlashing of cargo, loading and unloading cargo, mooring and anchoring operations, maintenance and repairs) (44.9%);
  • Work in the engine room (e.g. cleaning and clearing up, maintenance and repairs) (16.7%);
  • Service functions (e.g. cleaning in accommodation, catering and handling of galley stores) (15.9%);
  • Walking from one place to another (e.g. on deck and in cargo holds, in accommodation and galley, on stairs and ladders) (10.4%).

Underlying causes of occupational accidents

Based on the analyses of more than 331 accident investigation reports, Çakir identified dangerous work practices and ignorance of rules and instructions as the most common underlying causes of serious occupational injuries and fatalities.

A study by Roberts confirms unsafe practices (25.4%) as the most common underlying causes of occupational fatalities.

Uğurlu et al. surveyed over 850 cadets, collected their occupational injuries and experience during their time at sea, and had them assessed by 16 maritime experts using Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP). They found lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) usage (24.2%) and haste (22.6%) as the top two root causes of occupational accidents.

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Source: Llyod’s Register Foundation


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