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J Occup Health. 2010;52(5):249-56. Epub 2010 Jul 22.

Occupational risks and challenges of seafaring.

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  • 1Department of Maritime Medicine, Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine, Seewartenstrasse, Hamburg, Germany.


Seafarers are exposed to a high diversity of occupational health hazards onboard ships.


The aim of this article is to present a survey of the current, most important hazards in seafaring including recommendations on measures how to deal with these problems.


The review is based on maritime expert opinions as well a PubMed analysis related to the occupational risks of seafaring.


Despite recent advances in injury prevention, accidents due to harmful working and living conditions at sea and of non-observance of safety rules remain a main cause of injury and death. Mortality in seafaring from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is mainly caused by increased risks and impaired treatment options of CVD at sea. Further, shipboard stress and high demand may lead to fatigue and isolation which have an impact on the health of onboard seafarers. Communicable diseases in seafaring remain an occupational problem. Exposures to hazardous substances and UV-light are important health risks onboard ships. Because of harsh working conditions onboard including environmental conditions, sufficient recreational activities are needed for the seafarers' compensation both onboard and ashore. However, in reality there is often a lack of leisure time possibilities.


Seafaring is still an occupation with specific work-related risks. Thus, a further reduction of occupational hazards aboard ships is needed and poses a challenge for maritime health specialists and stakeholders. Nowadays, maritime medicine encompasses a broad field of workplaces with different job-related challenges.

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