Maritime Safety Week 2024

Our ref: HSR

Head Office Circular: NP/158/24

28th June 2024

To: The Secretary




Dear Colleague




Maritime Safety Week is from 1st – 5th July 2024. This week is dedicated to promoting a safe maritime industry, through sharing of best practice and promoting the skills needed by our workforce to ensure that everyone in the industry is trained to a high standard and able to go home safe at the end of each day.


Here a just a few examples of work RMT is involved in across the maritime sector.


Maritime Safety Representatives

We believe that the safety culture onboard vessels and within ports needs to be improved and there needs to be a detailed focus to bring about effective change that protects workers within the workplace.


Safety Representatives, Safety Officers and Safety Committees are at the heart of progressing a positive change in culture, but this can only be achieved through the provision of effective training for safety representatives in all sectors of Maritime.


It is also incumbent on every single member of RMT employed within the maritime sector to prioritise a strong safety culture within your workplace as change cannot be driven without them!


RMT has consistently argued for mandatory training for Safety Officers and safety representatives at National forums that we attend and for effective safety linkage between ship and shoreside Safety Committees.


It is vital that we strive as a union seek to have elected health and safety representatives, who have been trained and are effectively involved in risk assessments, safety inspections and safety investigations as part of their representative powers, and not as is currently the case in many workplaces whereby we see appointed representatives as part of a tickbox exercise by employers!





SOLAS does not actually require that crew to be on board when the lifeboat is launched. Most accidents take place during launch due to problems with hooks; lifeboats should be lowered down to the water line before boarding during drills.

To prevent any further loss of life RMT will continue to raising awareness of the fact that seafarers are not required to be in the lifeboat when launching during drills.


Between 1981 and 2022 there have been 419 deaths involving lifeboats, 346 serious injuries and 116 minor injuries.


It is a fact that many seafarers have been, and continue to be, killed or seriously injured in accidents involving the failure of lifeboat on-load release mechanisms.


The risk of an accident from inadvertent release of the lifeboat on-load hooks is unacceptably high. Fall preventer devices should be used to control the risk and stay safe.



Fatigue has become one of the major issues across the Maritime sector as a consequence of extended roster patterns, a reduction in crewing numbers, an inability to maintain agreed crewing levels resulting in increased workload for members within maritime sector whilst the majority of employers do not have fatigue management plans in place and an effective mechanism to identify, educate and prevent fatigue within the workplace.  This matter is compounded further through an inconsistent approach to recording hours of rest.  Concerns on the recording of hours of rest within the shipping sector have resulted in a report being carried out by the WMU (World Maritime university) which found that:  


  • 64.3% reported adjusting their work/rest records
  • 80.2% said adjustments was to avoid any findings during inspections
  • 75% said adjustments were made to avoid problems with the shipping company
  • 50.3% reported notifying their company of non-compliance with work and rest hours. However, 46.7% of these seafarers received no response


The Regulatory Void

Seafarers’ Health and Safety and the regulatory gap is a major issue in the various maritime sectors, including the offshore energy sector and inland waterways, and continues to be of huge concern to RMT.


The current legislative framework and guidance was written at a time when offshore wind was neither anticipated, nor the arrival of new concepts such as Floating Offshore Wind allowing for development far beyond territorial waters and into the Exclusive Economic Zone.  


To this end, RMT continues to participate in a working group established for the sector consisting of the statutory agencies, operators and workers’ representatives to monitor and advise as the sector develops.   


We are also part of an international wind working group with other ITF affiliated unions focusing on safety concerns and discussing the role of organisations such as Global Wind Organisation (GWO) and G+ who issue guidance to the renewables sector.



ODIA Signature companies’ use of decompression tables in the North Sea Sector

RMT is currently undertaking a review of current practices across the industry and thereafter present this review to the Health and Safety Executive and ODIA Signature Companies to justify the standardisation and/or the amendment of present decompression tables in practices.


Port Skills and Safety 

Port Skills and Safety is the professional safety and skills membership organisation for ports.  It works in collaboration with its members to promote best practice and innovation, develop guidance and services to drive continuous improvement in safety and ensure a highly skilled workforce.

RMT has attended Port Safety meetings over the past year and we hope to have a representative from the union’s National Health and Safety Advisory Committee (a port worker) at the next meeting in Liverpool on Tuesday 24th September 2024,



PPE is critical for seafarers as they are exposed to heavy duty work and dangerous materials that pose a threat to their lives. The safety of seafarers depends largely on the effectiveness of the equipment they wear. However, PPE is not equally accessible to all, and especially to female seafarers.


As seafarers account for a predominantly male workforce, female seafarers experience great difficulty in finding appropriate protective equipment for themselves. Women seafarers make up just 2% of the crewing workforce and are predominately found in the cruise sector, while in ship-owning companies, they made up 34% of the workforce.


  • A typical woman’s foot is both shorter and narrower than a typical man’s foot so even if the shoe is the correct length, it would be too wide.


  • A woman’s face is generally smaller and finer than a man’s so protective eye wear made for a man could leave gaps at the temples allowing ingress of foreign bodies.


  • The average woman has shorter, narrower hands so even a small size glove designed for a man would be loose.


  • Slips and falls protection is not properly addressed by an improperly sized safety harness.


  • Woman wearing a hard hat designed for a man may risk having her vision obscured if it slips over her eyes.


  • A woman who cannot find correctly fitting and comfortable PPE is less likely to wear items of PPE and thereby puts herself at increased risk of injury.


Furthermore, during Solent University’s 2020 research to determine whether ill-fitting personal protective equipment is causing problems onboard ships, more than 80% of female participants reported that they have experienced problems with PPE relating to their gender.


Several maritime companies are taking steps to address this issue, especially because recent revisions to the MLC, 2006 demand that all seafarers have access to suitably sized PPE by December 2024.



Li-ion fire risk

Decarbonization and electrification are increasing the number of shipping goods that contain Li-ion batteries, from electric vehicles to a wide range of consumer and electronic goods. The main dangers of Li-ion batteries include fire, explosion, and thermal runaway.



Thermal runaway can develop as a result of an internal short circuit caused by physical damage to the battery or inadequate battery maintenance. The heat created inside these batteries exceeds the quantity that can be expelled. As a result, the electrolyte barrier, which is a flammable liquid, is damaged. The battery then short-circuits, causing heat propagation to spread to the other cells and damage them.


In addition, as these batteries are newly introduced materials, most crew have not had any training on how to prevent fires caused by Li-ion batteries, whilst we are seeing different approaches by employers to what they believe is best practice depending on vessel type, layout of vessel and route.


Mental Wellbeing

We are continuing to challenge employers across the maritime sector to improve awareness, support and education, we are seeing an inconsistent approach, with some employers doing the bare minimal whilst other employers are actively investing in visible and effective mental health support programs.


Although RMT cannot offer medical help or counselling, we can help sort out problems connected with work that can trigger members’ stress, anxiety, and depression. For more information on this please see this RMT advice: Mental health – a trade union issue


The Mental Health section of RMT’s website can be viewed in full here



Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members. 



Yours sincerely




Michael Lynch

General Secretary