Workers that are assigned as fire watch workers are the first ones to protect other workers and themselves from disaster while doing “hot work”. Hot work is anything that involves welding, burning, riveting, grinding, or the use of a tool that produces a fire or sparks.
Our Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns are here for maritime workers dealing with the hazards of working in a vessel or shipyard where there are increased risks of a serious fire. Employers are legally responsible for providing a safe work environment and must have a number of fire prevention systems in place to protect their maritime workers.
Below you will find a number of safety measures and systems that should be in place including:
Adequate Ventilation Systems
Adequate ventilation systems should be established in places where welding, cutting, or any hot work is being performed. The smoke from a non-ventilated area may be harmful to workers far before the fire even appears.
Work Areas Should be Frequently Inspected
Work areas in a shipyard or on a vessel should be thoroughly inspected before any work is done; inspections should be done by what is called a “competent person.” A competent person is normally a foreman, supervisor, or trained individual who has the ability to accurately identify and recognize a threat of any kind. This inspection should be done before any workers sets foot in the work area. No one should enter until the full inspection is done and the competent person gives the official “okay.”
Lighting plays a prominent role in any work environment but especially in maritime jobs where high-risk activities take place. Working with tools that create flames and sparks are better used if you can see exactly what you’re doing. If lighting is poor it could lead to much bigger problems.
Warnings of Gasoline Hazards
One of the biggest hazards in a work environment such as a shipyard is flammable liquids such as gasoline. Failure to adequately label combustible materials in containers can quickly lead to an explosion. This is especially true in areas where welding and other types of “hot work” take place.
Employers should ensure that all hazardous materials are properly labeled and workers should be trained to read all signs and labels before operating any equipment.
Extinguish Systems Should Be Set in Place
There are two types of extinguishing systems that should be in place: a fixed automatic extinguishing system and manual extinguishing systems.
A fixed automatic system is activated when the system detects that there is a fire. However, it is important for maritime employees to recognize that the extinguishing system can be dangerous if the area is not evacuated. Workers should be trained on how to handle a situation in which the system activates and should know where all the exits are.
Manual extinguishing systems are essentially fire extinguishers. These should be handled by those that are trained to do so; it’s recommended that all workers know how to use one in case of a fire emergency.
Proper Personal Protective Equipment Should Be Available
Aside from taking precautions to keep a safe work environment, employers should also have personal protective gear readily available to their maritime employees. Protective gear can be absolutely essential in protecting workers from body and eye injuries, burns, and any other topical injuries.
While there is plenty of safety measures employers and companies need to have in place, it is also the responsibility of the worker to stay alert and aware of their surroundings. Proper training should highlight where areas of hot work are in the shipyard or on a vessel, as well as what workers can do to actively prevent or fight fires.
Fire watch safety is extremely important when working on a ship or in a shipyard. An adequately conducted fire watch may require additional time to inspect the work area, catch any fire safety hazards, and report them, but it’s nothing compared to the damage and personal injury a fire can create.
If you have been injured in a maritime fire, do not hesitate to contact the Houston maritime attorneys at Lapeze & Johns.
For over two decades, Houston lawyers Christopher Johns and Keith Lapeze have been successfully litigating in the complex world of maritime law. They are passionate about defending maritime workers’ rights and have the resources and knowledge to provide the representation you deserve.
Contact us today at (713) 739-1010 today for your free consultation.