Shipbuilding and ship-repair

This webpage will help you find out about the hazards and risks that might be encountered in shipbuilding and ship-repair, as well as boat building and repair.

What you must do

Many of the activities on board ships are covered in the engineering and welding microsites. The combination of the use of flammable gases and restricted or confined spaces that can be found on ships and boats is specifically addressed in the information document 'Storage and Use of Oxygen and Fuel Gases On Board Ships'.

Frequently asked questions

Weren't ships exempt from the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (the Workplace Regulations)?

Certain elements of the Workplace Regulations did not explicitly cover work on ships. The Workplace Regulations have been amended to make it clear that they do apply to ships.

Can I use a boat, or vessel as access or to work from?

The duty to ensure that any such access or workplace is safe is covered by existing requirements of the Workplace Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work etc act (HSW Act). There is also working near water guidance available on the HSE website.

What about the duties to provide sufficient lighting when working on ships?

You have to provide sufficient lighting under the Workplace Regulations (regulation 8). Where lighting is required as part of work equipment, then Providing and Using Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) will place duties on the work, as well as HSW 2 & 3. There are also requirements under the Merchant Shipping (Safe Access) Regulations 1988 which are enforced by the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA). See the Memorandum of Understanding.

Following the general guidance will ensure work can be carried out safely.

There is existing guidance for lighting in docks and for dock operations produced jointly by HSE and Port Skills and Safety.

How do I do work inside a boiler, tank or similar?

The Confined Spaces Regulations cover all aspects of this type of work and guidance can be found in the confined spaces section of the HSE website.

What about needing to ensure hatch beams are secured if they are not removed?

Each year workers are killed and injured in a number of industries by heavy materials, components or equipment falling or toppling over. The Work at Height Regulations (regulation 10) deal with falling objects and the general duty to ensure heavy items are secured is covered by the HSW Act.

'Jumped-up bolts' - what are these and can they be used?

Jumped-up bolts are worn bolts (usually in shell plates) that are heated and hammered to enable a retightened nut to once again exert force on the plates. They are prone to failure which is why the use in securing side plates was prohibited in the old regulations. PUWER regulation 4 would also prohibit their use as the failure risk would make them unsuitable.

Can young people work in shipyards?

There used to be a prohibition on 16-18 year olds working on staging or where they could fall over 2 metres or where there was a risk of falling into water where there was a risk of drowning (until they had been working on the site for 6 months).

The Work at Height Regulations require all work at height to be properly planned and the risks controlled for all workers. This means that there should be no risk to anyone.

In addition, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (the Management Regulations) recognise that some younger workers may not be as mature or have as much life experience which might make them more vulnerable at work. Regulation 19 of the Management Regulations details the additional steps that dutyholders need to take to ensure the risks are properly controlled.

Do I have to employ a safety supervisor?

There was a requirement in old regulations for a safety supervisor to be employed to supervise compliance with the regulations where there were more than 500 people employed. There was allowance for sharing the resources between employers.

The Management Regulations require dutyholders to have sufficient arrangements and assistance as might be required in place. It is likely that compliance with these requirements will be more effective than the old simple requirement. Often the people involved in implementing the arrangements or providing assistance will do so within other roles or duties, such as management.

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Updated: 2023-04-27