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Shipyards can be toxic workplaces

On Behalf of | May 12, 2016 | Longshore Act

When people in New York think about jobs in the shipping industry, they imagine people working on a ship. However, there are many other types of occupations and some of them involve a shipyard. The National Institutes of Health point out that a shipyard is not just a place where ships are assembled. It’s also where ships are taken when they are in need of maintenance, disassembly, cleaned or need something repaired.

When ships need to be cleaned, workers must use chemicals that contain copper, solvents, flammable materials and heavy metals. The chemicals are needed to blast off the organisms, barnacles, contaminates and other things that have built up on the ship’s hull while it was at sea. However, during the cleaning process, the removal of these items can lead to the release of pollutants, organic compounds and even lead.

Before workers can perform maintenance on a ship, the bilge tanks and ballast need to be emptied. However, this process can expose them to harmful substances. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration points out that if there is bunker oil, fish, drilling mud, sewage, or sour crude oil in the ship’s tank there could be an accumulation of hydrogen sulfide. This natural gas, if inhaled can pose a life threat to workers and is difficult to detect.

In addition to the toxins found around the ships themselves, shipyards can contain other toxins. For example, internal combustion engines and welding can produce carbon monoxide. Enclosed spaces, such as pumps and pipes can also be places where hazardous materials are located. Toxins may also occur during other processes when material is transported or dumped.