1.11 PERSONAL HEALTH
The close relationship between health and job performance cannot be
doubted. At one extreme: if you're dead, you can't do your job at all;
and at the other extreme: a deck officer whose hobby is participating
in triathalons has little trouble dealing with the physical demands
of handling cargo on a non-automated tanker. Most officers fall somewhere
between those two extremes, exactly where being largely dependant on
their mental and physical health.
Seafaring can be a stressful job and many shipping jobs ashore have
their share of it as well. But stress itself is not a health concern.
In fact a study of a quarter million businessmen found that those who
had the most stressful jobs (often corresponding to greater success
in their careers), had lower heart attack rates than all other groups
and only 60% of the expected incidence of heart disease.
The hardest jobs on health turned out to be those involving less demanding
jobs, especially those associated with boredom and lack of responsibility.
The message is clear for both employer and employee. The more interesting
a job can be made and the more responsibility attached to it, the more
beneficial it will be to the health of the person doing it.
Stress can have a negative effect on health and performance if it is
not managed properly by the employee. Today, stress management is a
well developed discipline. An intelligent management would be wise to
include shipboard courses in stress management in a program of 'riding'
instruction to improve crew performance.
Fatigue is a significant contributing cause of marine casualties, often
involving significant pollution claims. The incidence of fatigue in
senior officers is attributable in part to manning levels and inadequate
junior officer qualification. In many tankers today, the chief officer
is the only person trusted to conduct cargo operations. The junior officers
are often relegated to the duty of deck watch during loading and discharging
operations. This is a significant departure from only a few years ago
when each junior officer was fully qualified to conduct routine loading
or discharging operations and the chief officer was only called out
for more demanding evolutions such as topping off tanks or preparing
for CBT operations. Combined with a three officer manning level, lack
of qualifications by the junior officers can mean non-stop activity
by the chief officer during every port call.
To avoid fatigue the chief officer needs to know how to get the most
from his officers and how to pace himself. He must learn how to relax
and how to arrange the cargo operations to insure that he gets at least
a couple of breaks in every port. Given the ability to relax at will
(good stress management technique), the chief officer will be able to
capture short naps during the periods of cargo operations when his immediate
attention is not required. Such brief napping has been demonstrated
to significantly increase alertness, performance and endurance in the
face of long-term demands.
Naps for the chief officer are a poor substitute for the real solution
to this problem ... fully qualified junior officers who are competent
to take over a cargo watch for four hours of routine operations without
creating an incident. It is possible that some owners who have put their
vessels in the care of a technical management company are not aware
that their ship is manned by under-qualified officers. Any owner who
is not conducting regular independent audits of the crew performance
should not be surprised when faced by a disaster caused by under-qualified
personnel and/or exhausted senior officers.
The master should be both aware of the level of fatigue experienced
by his officers and prepared to assume their departure navigation watch
if they have not had adequate rest in port. One recent pollution incident
occurred because the master failed to monitor the fatigue level of his
officers and did not insure that he himself was sufficiently rested
and alert to navigate confined waters while departing.
One of the foundation blocks of health is good nutrition. This is a
joint responsibility of the ship management and the crew member. Management
is responsible for providing the catering staff with good food to prepare,
for ensuring that the ship's menu includes regular appearances of the
seven main food groups and for training the cooks to produce attractive
and appetising meals.
It is then up to the crew to take their meals regularly and in moderation.
One common problem among seamen is overweight. Carrying too much body
around reduces performance and life expectancy. Moderate eating combined
with adequate exercise will keep a seaman healthy and fit.
There is also a relationship between the morning meal and fatigue. Studies
have clearly indicated a reduction in fatigue and fluid retention among
previous breakfast-slighters who added fish, meat, or cheese (mozzarella,
cottage, or provolone), to their normal morning meal of toast and coffee.
In a tanker which is manually operated, there is plenty of opportunity
for the deck officers to get their allowance of exercise. Few tanker
officers were ever more fit than when each port call included a workout
of opening and closing twenty valves during a watch and making two or
three inspection trips to the bottom of the pumproom. Today the cargo
control room has taken away that opportunity to keep in shape. Now it
is necessary for the management to provide an exercise space and appropriate
equipment so that the crew can maintain their physical condition. Adequate
fitness can be maintained by an exercise routine which raises the heart
rate for twenty minutes three or four times each week. This can be readily
achieved with a rowing machine, exercise bicycle or treadmill.
1.11.5 Health care
Crew member B is a greater health risk; he has
high blood pressure (crew member A is only overweight). Only regular
health examinations can fully disclose crew health risks.
Illnesses or injuries must be reported immediately to the ship's medical
officer. It is the responsibility of the owner and master to provide
each crew member with any necessary medical care while employed on their
Beyond routine care of minor illnesses or injuries, owners have an interest
in providing each crew member with an annual or biennial physical exam
rigorous enough to disclose any hidden illnesses.
Lack of rigorous crew physical examinations risks an unexpected medical
diversion. Most of the costs of a medical diversion are normally recoverable
through P&I coverage, but the unrecovered costs will always be more
than equal to several years of crew physical examinations.
1.11.6 Drugs Prohibition of possession, use, trafficking, or sale of drug substances
by crew members.
All ship owners and operating managers should have a policy of:
Prohibition of the use of any substance which produces unusual behaviour
of a crew member in the course of performing his duties.
Shipping companies should have a policy on alcohol and drug use. The
policy must be clear and readily understandable by crew members and
shore staff. The objective is to prevent a company vessel from being
operated by any crew member while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Crew physical examinations should include a drug test. Provided that
it is mandatory for all personnel, the practice is accepted by most
crew members and unions. Because of the substantial penalties for Customs
discovery of drugs on a ship, including possible seizure of the vessel,
owners must take all reasonable efforts to insure that drugs are not
found on board. The laws of the United States (Anti-Drug Abuse Act of
1986) and Colombia (National Narcotics Statute), among other countries,
permit the confiscation of ships carrying drugs unless the owners, charterers
and master have exercised the highest degree of care and diligence to
insure that drugs were not transported in the vessel. Prior to departing
a port in a known drug trafficking area, the heads of department 'must
conduct a thorough visual check of all spaces, reporting any suspicious
observations to the master. Any spaces not required for the vessel's
operation should be kept locked and all ship's stores deliveries should
be inspected by an officer. If necessary, private drug finding dogs
may be employed before sailing to conduct a final search of the ship.
Owners and officers should be aware that any marine accident in United
States waters automatically subjects the vessel and its crew to a thorough
drug inspection, including substance testing of all personnel involved
in the accident.
From the viewpoint of the officer, involvement in drugs, either as a
user or as a courier, places your career on the razor's edge. Thousands
of officer careers have been ruined by alcohol, a legal drug. Illegal
drugs can have an even stronger hold on the user and bring a career
to an earlier end. Some officers propose that they are free to use drugs,
alcoholic or otherwise while off the ship. For a professional officer,
that is not an acceptable attitude. While assigned to a ship and even
while on vacation, an officer must abstain from all illegal drugs and
should use alcohol moderately. Habits cultivated while ashore are difficult
to leave behind when returning to sea.
On those vessels where alcohol is permitted and available to the crew,
an enforced policy of abstention prior to going on duty must be in place.
The US Coast Guard requires four hours of abstention. It must not be
less than one hour of abstention for every unit (1 unit = 30 cl. ordinary
beer = 10 cl. table wine), consumed. Spirits, fortified wines and extra
strength beer should not be permitted on board. To avoid doubt, an alcometer
should be supplied to the master.
Officers must be strictly prohibited from surrendering their watch to
their replacement, if they believe the replacement to be under the influence
of alcohol or drugs.
1.11.7 Contagious diseases
Sexually transmitted and other contagious diseases have always been
a hazard of the seafaring trade. Today, the added threat of AIDS should
inspire every seaman to practice safety if not abstention. While current
preventive measures may not be foolproof, they are more than 90% effective
in preventing contagion. Earlier contagious diseases remain prevalent.
Any crew member who suspects that he has contracted any illness must
report it immediately to the ship's medical officer.
1.11.8 Other diseases
Malaria - the incidence of malaria is increasing throughout the tropical
areas of the world including, Africa, Asia, East Indies, Philippines,
Malagasy Republic and Melanesia. In these areas, the crew should use
mosquito repellents while working and mosquito netting while resting.
Insecticide sprays should be used freely in the quarters. Preventive
drugs should be supplied and the crew encouraged/required to take it
at the recommended intervals while in subject areas and for some time
after leaving the area.
Typhoid and paratyphoid - can be prevented by effective purification
of water supplies take from questionable sources and by prohibiting
swimming by the crew in docks and harbours.
1.11.9 Personal hygiene
Personal cleanliness is an important part of good health, especially
under tropical conditions. Frequent showering facilitates sweating to
cool the body naturally. Frequent hand washing reduces the opportunity
for contracting contagious diseases.