Seafaring is known to be one of the most hazardous occupations in the world. It is heavily associated with high risks to illnesses due to shore and shipboard exposure. Because of these navigational risks, many obtain long-term marine insurance for aid. This is a way to ease the added burden of the pandemic, as seafarers don’t have the most favorable labor conditions especially now.
To better understand their well-being at work, here are some major causes of sickness seafarers could potentially get:
Pandemic and epidemic diseases
Working on a ship entails travelling to different parts of the world. Seafarers are often exposed to people of different backgrounds and health conditions. While boosters or additional vaccines are typically provided, COVID-19 having no cure has made the situation harder. Testimonies of stranded seafarers include them being quarantined on board ships for a long period or being terminated and sent home.
Overuse of power tools
Seafarers put in so much work into running their ships and machinery every day. According to recognized labor standards, working time should be a maximum of 14 hours in any 24 hour period. Consequently, overuse of power tools can result in Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), and sudden or repetitive heavy lifting can cause musculoskeletal disorders. Prolonged strain from these equipment without rest can lead to permanent disability if not treated early.
Exposure to toxic substances
Maritime work makes it inevitable for seafarers to come in contact with toxic substances. For instance, inhalation of hydrogen sulfide, asbestos, and benzene can become poisonous and lethal. These chemicals or carcinogens may act alone or with one another to increase risk of getting cancer. For the workers’ sake, well-defined safety training and precautions can make the difference between life and death.
Combination of unhealthy practices
Overwork, smoking, and poor diet are some stressful reasons that can result in heart problems. And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the primary cause of death globally. Besides that, another unhealthy practice to note is doing unsafe sexual activities, as this risks workers to contract sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) on board. These illnesses and similar others could be prevented with the right information, early detection, and management through counselling and medication.
Even if seafarers are conditioned for resilience, responding to a pandemic is new for everyone. Protection policies from the government, their employer, and insurance companies in the Philippines are a must to secure their livelihood, health, and sanity.