Naval construction, and particularly naval repair, has high rates of occupational accidents. Birgham noted (in 1983) a 35% annual accident rate[jc1] for the state of Maine in the US (1). In France, in the largest civil repair yard, annual frequency rates ranging from 68 to 185 (with 10 years in which there were over 100 accidents) and seriousness ranging from 2.4 to 6.6[jc2] (with 7 years in which the score was above 4) were recorded in the period 1995-2008 (2). In terms of construction, published data from between 1997 and 1999 showed frequency rates of 57.8 to 66.5 and seriousness scores of between 0.65 and 0.87 in the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyards (3). It is interesting to compare these figures with the national figures for 2007, all jobs combined, for metallurgy and public building and works (which have accident frequency rates of 25.7, 24.8 and 53.03 respectively, and seriousness of 1.28, 1.05 and 2.76 respectively) (4). Shipbuilding and ship repair both have high rates of occupational accidents, more so than building and public works, but accidents are less serious overall in shipbuilding. Repair carries the highest risk of accidents and serious accidents.
Historical data from the UK show 8,939 recorded accidents, and an incidence of 7,010 accidents per 100,000 in 1974, with 19 fatal accidents in 1973 and 1975 (5).
In a study I carried out concerning 48 accidents involving ship repair workers, the most frequent part of the body affected by the accidents were hands, lower limbs and eyes, with the more serious accidents involving mainly hands and upper limbs. Most accidents (62.5%) occurred on board, and the rest in the workshop.
This fact can be explained by the ergonomic and organisational constraints (short deadlines) on board ships that are being repaired.
These data are taken from large shipyards; it is difficult to obtain data from small shipyards, which are a large part of the industrial fabric of boatbuilding.