Guide released to reduce threat of burns at sea

UK P&I Club's new guide focuses on how to reduce burns at sea after "worrying number" of severe cases. Credit: Getty Images

The UK P&I Club has said there needs to be a renewed focus on how crews and masters can reduce the threat of burns at sea and create safe practices to prevent them.

The insurer has issued a new guide for seafarers citing there remain “a worrying number of seafarers suffering appalling physical pain, disfigurement, amputations and loss of life as a result of burns”.

There are also concerns around the lack of training provided in the treatment of burns. This has as a potential consequence that severe injuries become “dangerously aggravated”.

Captain David Nichol, senior loss prevention executive at UK P&I Club told Safety at Sea that while, according to the Club’s claim experience, burn injuries are not as frequent as those caused by slips, trips and falls they do occur on a “worryingly regular basis”.  Not only are such cases frequent, he said, but the burns reported to them are often painful, life changing or in some cases fatal.

“Burns can be very challenging for ships officers to deal with effectively, particularly if not properly trained in recognising the potential seriousness of this type of injury, as well as the importance of seeking prompt professional medical assistance,” said Nichol. “As clearly explained in the risk focus, there are a multitude of ways by which seafarers can burn themselves on board ship and responding effectively may be a matter of life and death.”

Nichol stressed that the issue must be taken “extremely seriously” in any work environment, but is even more relevant in a maritime environment due to the increased risks of the shipboard environment and the fact crew may be thousands of miles from the nearest hospital.

“This guide is designed to inform, raise awareness and reinforce the importance of following best practice which could go a long way to preventing many avoidable burn injuries.”

When asked why the decision was taken to produce the guide now, Nichol told Safety at Sea, “The reason for producing the publication was to contribute to remedying what we perceived to be a knowledge gap on the issue. We hope this risk focus will assist in raising industry awareness to the shipboard hazards causing burn injuries and that it will provide a valuable reference for ship’s crews and management.”

The UK Club said the most common causes of burn injuries to crew on board ships are contact with heated surfaces, steam or hot fluid burns, exposure to hot or burning solids, liquids or gases, chemical, electrical and cold burns. Depending on its severity, a burn will be graded as first, second, or third degree, the latter being the most severe and may extend to the underlying fat, muscle and bone.

The guide advises ship’s masters and crew to be fully aware of the potentially life-threatening complications that may result from the loss of the protective skin layer, including infection, hypothermia, dehydration and shock.