Navigating hazards and hidden dangers in the refit season

crew safety and environmental responsibility

As the yachting community embraces the refit season, a time when yachts undergo maintenance and repairs in shipyards, it is vital to have candid discussions about the less obvious challenges faced. While the main focus tends to be on revamping the aesthetics and functionality of the vessels, we can’t overlook the impacts on both crew well-being and the environment.

Shipyards specialise in a wide range of vessel refurbishment activities, including tasks such as removing filler and paint abrasively and performing detailed repairs required due to saltwater corrosion.

Let’s talk about the real risks crew members encounter during refit season and why paying attention to the air quality in the shipyard matters. Shipyard work involves a myriad of tasks, from abrasive paint removal to detailed repairs addressing saltwater corrosion. These activities generate ultrafine particles, which can pose significant health risks to crew.

Health Risks

Crew members engaged in refit activities face numerous health hazards, both immediate and long-term. Antifouling paints, a staple during refits, can be harmful to the skin and eyes, potentially causing lasting damage. Continuous exposure demands strict adherence to personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols.

Moreover, some marine paints contain high levels of active chemicals, these hazardous substances have implications for both human health and the environment. Sustained exposure can have severe consequences, underscoring the importance of safety precautions and the value of exploring more eco-friendly alternatives in the refurbishment processes. Embracing low-toxicity materials not only safeguards our crew but also aligns with our broader goals of reducing the industry’s ecological footprint.

Copper, commonly found in antifouling paint, serves to protect against fouling growth but also raises environmental concerns. Despite its effectiveness, bio-accumulating copper can adversely affect marine life, contributing to pollution in coastal waters. With a growing awareness of our environmental impact, it’s crucial that we explore alternatives to traditional paints.

Proper Paint Disposal for New Crew Members

It’s crucial for new crew members experiencing their first refit season to understand the proper disposal of paint. Paint should never be poured down the drain or be allowed to flow into water courses. Surplus paint should be kept for seastores or allowed to dry out and then disposed of appropriately. This also applies to experienced crew members during the refit season. 

Maritime Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Maritime safety data sheets provide essential information about how hazardous the chemicals and paints used in the shipyard during refit season. It is vital for crew members to familiarise themselves with these documents to understand proper handling, storage, and disposal procedures. By adhering to the guidelines outlined in MSDS, crew members can mitigate risks and ensure their safety and environmental responsibility.

Protecting Crew and the Environment

Recognising the potential risks, it is not enough for crew members to simply wear PPE during tasks like sanding or spraying for yachts, airborne particles from overspray or even sanding can create an explosion hazard in an enclosed space. This principle extends beyond refit season and the maritime industry to encompass any sanding and painting activities undertaken. We must also consider the quality of air in our working environment, as prolonged exposure to airborne particles can have lasting health effects.

As we navigate the refit season, it is paramount for our community to prioritise both crew safety and environmental stewardship. By acknowledging the hidden dangers and embracing eco-conscious practices, we can create a safer, more sustainable environment for all involved. Let’s protect ourselves and our precious marine ecosystems as we continue to thrive in this industry. The question is, do you feel adequately prepared to tackle the health hazards we have discussed?

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