Safe Working Practices in Engine Room


Observe safe working practices

Operations and procedures for maintaining your vessel as a safe place to work

  • The following is a list of operations and procedures that need to be considered. The list is a good starting point for new deckhands.
  • Personal Safety Clothing and Equipment
  • The OH&S laws require that you use safety and protective clothing and equipment provided by your employer.
  •     ·         do not ignore safety precautions
  •     ·         wear safety gear or protective clothing
  •     ·         if the right safety and protective clothing is not available then either ask for it or get it yourself
  • Here's a list of safety gear you should wear.


Issue  Action
Protection from the elements If you are exposed to cold conditions, wear suitable clothing that allows you to both work and maintain a suitable body temperature. Wear wet weather gear in bad conditions.
Eye Protection

If you are engaged in work where there is dust, metal chips, splashing liquids, glare or radiation risk (for example, welding), you must wear eye protection. Whenever possible, remove the source of danger.

Foot Protection

Always wear footwear appropriate to the work you are doing. It is easy to wear the appropriate footwear that will protect your feet, especially with non-skid soles for slippery decks.

Hand Protection

There are plenty of potential risks, including exposure to chemicals, cutting or hitting your hands, handling wire ropes, exposure to heat /cold or water for prolonged periods. In any of these circumstances, you should wear appropriate gloves.

Head Protection

If you are working where injury to your head is likely from falling objects, or from low deck heads, wear a helmet. The helmet should be suitable for the task, properly fitted and not previously damaged

Hearing Protection

Your hearing may be damaged by exposure to sudden, loud, or prolonged noise. Working where there is such noise, wear ear muffs appropriate for the task, eg engine rooms.

Respiratory Protection If you are working in dusty conditions or amongst gases and vapours, you should wear a dust mask or even a full set of contained air breathing apparatus (CABA) like firemen use.
Skin Protection

You should always wear clothing to protect your skin from sunburn and possible skin cancers. This includes hats and shirts with arm and leg covering. Use 30+ sunscreen creams.



 Ship’s Engine Room

  • ·         Keep clean and tidy, floors free from oil or grease spills.
  • ·         Initiate “Isolation Procedures” before beginning any maintenance or repairs.
  • ·         Repair any oil/ fuel leaks as soon as discovered.
  • ·         Check operation of all safety alarms on a daily basis.
  • ·         Make sure all safety guards on moving parts are in place.
  • ·         Store used oily rags correctly.
  • ·         Check operation of emergency cut-offs/ shut-downs regularly.


Re-fuelling Operations

  • ·         Know how much fuel you require
  • ·         Be prepared in case of a blow back or spillage.
  • ·         Code flag “B” displayed.
  • ·         “No Smoking signs displayed.
  • ·         NEVER leave the operation unattended.
  • ·         Portable fire fighting equipment at the ready.
  • ·         All unnecessary electrical/ electronic equipment, stoves, etc. turned off.


Using Hand Operated Power Tools 

  • ·       Always use Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker safety box in power supply.
  • ·        Do a visual check of tools before use; check for cracks/ damage to casing, switch etc.
  • ·        Check for fraying of power lead at entry to body of machine.
  • ·       Check guards are in place.
  • ·       Check for damage along power cable.
  • ·       Do not run power cables through water.
  • ·       Keep cutting blades sharpened.
  • ·    Check other side of bulkhead before drilling or cutting.     



  • ·          Keep clean and dry, free from dried salt.
  • ·          Keep well protected, preferably in an acid proof battery box.
  • ·          Ensure good ventilation of battery compartment.
  • ·          Keep electrolyte at correct level, 10 mm above plates.
  • ·         Ensure correct charging rate.
  • ·          Do not spark terminals, explosive hazard.
  • ·          Ensure all power requirements are off before removing or connecting terminals.
  • ·          Wear eye protection when checking electrolyte levels ( it is a very strong acid)
  • ·          Top up electrolyte ONLY with distilled, demineralized water.


Welding or Hot Work Onboard

  •            ·       Beware of the fire hazard with welding and cutting operations.
  •            ·       Have portable firefighting equipment at the ready.
  •            ·       Check on the other side of work area in case of other type of hazard, eg. electrical.
  •            ·       Know where mains power supply switch is located in case of emergency.
  •            ·      Full cover, personal safety clothing must be worn for cutting/ welding operations.
  •            ·      *Don’t leave AC power cable coiled up, but “flake” excess cable along deck.

(* It is a natural Law of physics that if a heavy AC current is drawn through a coiled up power supply cable, the coiled wire heats up and will melt the insulation, thereby fusing the wires and probably catching fire.)



  •            ·     Always keep the galley clean and tidy.
  •            ·     Clean up food spills immediately- remember the moving deck!
  •            ·     Wear correct clothing – non skid boots
  •            ·     Fire blanket and portable extinguisher available.
  •            ·     All “sharps” kept in correct stowage when not in use.
  •            ·     Use deep pots, but only half fill them for cooking, less chance of slopping out.
  •            ·     If deep frying – let fat cool off before moving pots.
  •            ·     Use “fiddle rails” on stove to stop pots sliding about in a seaway.
  •            ·     Clean range hood ventilators very regularly.
  •            ·     After use, turn off gas at bottle as well as at isolation valve near installation.
  •            ·     Never leave galley operations unattended. 


Personal Lifting

  •            ·     Check the weight of the lift. It should be less than 25 kilos.
  •            ·     Be aware of a moving deck.
  •            ·     Get extra help if the lift is too heavy or difficult.
  •            ·     Keep your back (spine) straight.
  •            ·     Start lift from the squat position and use thigh muscles to do the work.
  •            ·     Shift your feet to turn when carrying a load, don’t twist your body.
  •            ·     Prepare the pathway to where you are going before beginning the lift.
  •            ·     Use lifting aids if the are available.


Passive smoking
  •            ·      On a vessel or in confined spaces you may be exposed to passive smoking.
  •            ·      Never smoke below deck and do not put others at risk by smoking in enclosed spaces.
  •            ·      Avoid working near others when they are smoking.
  •            ·     Be aware that smoking may cause some of your paying passengers to become seasick and they may not recommend your operation to others!



  •            ·     Solvents used in the engine area for cleaning and in preparing surfaces for painting may be dangerous if:

o inhaled

allowed to penetrate broken skin

swallowed, either accidentally or through failure to wash your hands before eating.

  •            ·      Always read the first aid instructions on the labels for correct treatment if any of the above problems are encountered.
  •            ·     Avoid skin contact and breathing in toxic fumes.
  •            ·     Wear gloves, masks and protective clothing. 



  •       In older vessels, you may encounter asbestos:
  •                     o     in insulated bulkheads
  •                     o     in engine rooms
  •                     o     on piping carrying hot air or fluids.
  •       It is particularly dangerous to your lungs if it is not properly sealed and fibres are free to be inhaled. Special precautions are required in contaminated areas. You should be aware of the dangers of asbestos in your workplace.


Confined spaces


  •            ·     A confined space is an enclosed space, such as a cabin, engine room, battery room, store room, cargo tanks, double bottoms, duct keels, coffer dams, ballast and oil tanks, void spaces or anything similar.
  •            ·     If a space has been closed up and no one has gone in there recently, the air may not be suitable for breathing.
  •            ·     It is not possible to tell without test equipment if the air in a confined space has enough Oxygen to support life.
  •            ·      Rusting metal and rotting vegetable matter use up available oxygen over time.
  •            ·     Many substances give off methane gas.
  •            ·     Decaying matter, especially human and animal waste, may give off poisonous gases. Therefore, in a confined space, there may be both a lack of oxygen as well as dangerous gases.
  •            ·     These spaces may need to be entered from time to time for maintenance or survey inspection. OH&S Laws require that certain procedures must be strictly followed by any group intending to enter any such space.
  •            ·     The main elements of this process are:

o   Notification of all concerned is a MUST before entry commences.

o  Proper equipment should be made available eg. CABA apparatus, safety line, harness, portable lighting, communications.

o   Back-up persons outside.

o   Appropriate signs placed outside the space concerned.

o   “Gas Free” certificate. This may be needed BEFORE entry commences, especially if there is concern about lack of Oxygen or residual toxic gasses.

o   The area may need to be continually ventilated while inspection or work proceeds.

o   Never enter a space that has been closed up and where no one has entered recently, without having back-up help and making the necessary arrangements. 

           ·      The dangers associated with this particular work claim many lives each year and the need to follow specific safety procedures can’t be over-emphasised. If you are involved in this process at any time, BE VERY CAREFUL.