Hazards associated with chemical cargoes and control measures

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Health Hazards

Most of the chemical present onboard contains more than one hazard to health, for example, it may:

  • Be corrosive
  • Be poisonous
  • Produce toxic vapours
  • Pose an asphyxiation hazard
  • Result in long-term damage to eyes or the nervous system
  • Have long-term carcinogenic effects.
  • Anaesthesia
  • Asphyxia

Additional health hazards may be presented by non-cargo materials used on board during cargo handling. One hazard is that of frostbite from liquid nitrogen stored onboard for use as atmosphere control in cargo tanks. Full advice on dealing with frostbite is contained in the MFAG. Another hazard is that of burns from accidental contact with equipment used while handling heated cargoes.

  • Asphyxia

Asphyxia is unconsciousness caused by lack of oxygen and means suffocation. Any vapour may cause asphyxiation, whether toxic or not, simply by excluding oxygen in the air.

  • Anaesthesia

Certain vapours cause loss of consciousness due to their effect on the nervous system. In addition, anaesthetic vapours may or may not be toxic

  • Exposure

Exposure may be either acute or chronic. With acute exposure, the victim is subjected to a one-off high level dose and the symptoms are usually immediately apparent, although there can be a delayed reaction.

  • Inhalation

Inhalation of vapour or mist is by far the most likely route for harmful substances to enter the body. The effect of exposure will depend upon the toxicity of the vapour, the level of contamination and the volatility of the product. Exposure to the vapour may cause a variety of effects that could include systemic poisoning, irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory system and even asphyxiation.

Control Measures

1. To ensure safety on board one must adhere to the following points: Knowledge, training and strict routine.

2. Knowledge of the cargo to be loaded

3. knowledge of your ship and her equipment;

4. training in the use of safety equipment on board

5. strict routines in cargo handling, tank cleaning,

6. strict routine in command and reporting,

7. strict routine in using protective clothing etc.

8. Use of personal protective equipment (PPE).