Leading international classification society Bureau Veritas has developed guidelines intended to reduce the number of accidents to seafarers and surveyors during the inspection and maintenance of ships structures. The guidelines will help yards to design in safety in detail.

Guidelines for the Design of the Means of Access for Inspection, Maintenance and Operation of Commercial Ships provides design requirements and best practice advice for safe user-centred design of the means of access onboard ships of any type. Aimed at shipyards and designers, it has the potential to reduce the incidence of common slips, trips and falls during access from the current level of more than 40 per cent of non-fatal shipboard injuries to almost nothing.

Bernard Anne, managing director of BV's marine division, says, "Our experience in the offshore industry has shown that a detailed focus on user-centred design of the details of access means, such as ladders and hatchways, can reduce common accidents to almost zero. We want to spread that benefit to merchant ships. We know we can ensure owners get robust, fit for purpose ships through our rules, now we want to extend those rules to focus on detailed elements which will make the ships safer for crew members and surveyors. These guidelines are the first step in that process."

BV's guidelines are based on a rigorous research programme, questioning of actual users and the application of ergonomic principles to design.

The research identified the most risky means of access as ladders, openings (vertical and horizontal) and elevated passageways. The main causes of accidents were lack of handles, location of the openings, lack of space for surveying or working safely (on platforms or around ladders for instance), lack of space for using the means of access with comfort and confidence and poor marking of hazards.

"These are all issues which can be addressed through a well thought out design which focuses on what the user needs, rather than what is easiest to build. The MCA estimates that 23 per cent of the insurance payouts for shipping accidents are due to slips, trips and falls," says Anne.
"That's a lot of hurt seafarers, a lot of time lost and money wasted. We will move through the ship design and operation and examine each area in detail, applying the best techniques from every industry we work in to help seafarers to have a safer environment. These guidelines will be incorporated into our Rules, and we shall shortly be producing the next set, focussed on safe design for the machinery spaces."