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Descending Stairs Safely

On one of our members’ vessels, an observation was raised relating to the hazards associated with steep stairs. The subject is worthy of a timely reminder for us all. There are diverse international standards and references for stairs.  For example, the United States’ OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) defines that all ship stairs (or ship ladders) “between 60 and 90 degrees, be device-facing, so any ships ladder that is angled 60 degrees or steeper must be descended backing down”.

Our member then developed local guidance including:

  • General cleaning and surface requirements for stairs;
  • The correct use of the handrails;
  • Attention to correct PPE – use of safety footwear;
  • Adequate technique – “Trailing hand” for typical descent; and “Descending backwards” (face-in) for steep stairs.

Members may wish to revisit or re-use the IMCA posters on safe use of stairs and ladders:

Members should also review the following incidents relating to stairs and ladders:

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

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IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.