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Do cruise ships need to upgrade their safety equipment?

Do cruise ships need to upgrade their safety equipment? Share this article

For passengers onboard a cruise ship, the experience is like no other. Some go to really disconnect from the world and appreciate the vastness of ocean, some are in it for the thrill of exploring the world by water, and of course many people are just looking to relax, unwind and get some sun. For the crew of the ship, life at sea is a little different. Staff work around the clock to make the cruise experience fun for the passengers – but that means lots of time spent on foot. Deckhands need to ensure the ship is running smoothly, stewards keep the premises clean, the purser handles staff issues as they arise, and kitchen staff keep hundreds of stomachs full every day of the journey.

Passenger Safety
Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway studied a cruise ship for three years, which transported an average of 719 people per day. During that period, 663 injuries occurred. Slips and falls accounted for 44 percent of injuries aboard the studied ship and 69 percent of injuries on shore. The focus of this research was how to prevent injuries that necessitate an evacuation by helicopter. The researchers concluded that a well equipped medical bay staffed by competent professionals is normally capable of taking care of the most common ship injuries, thus reducing the likelihood of an air evacuation.

The type of passenger injury most reported upon is, of course, falling overboard. In the past, falling overboard was typically associated with bad weather, though nowadays modern ships and safety procedures have greatly reduced that risk. In recent years, alcohol has been the primary factor that leads to falls overboard.

When speaking with Fox News about incidences of falling off a cruise ship, Jim Walker, a maritime attorney said, "[A]lcohol is involved in about 40 percent of the cases."

Coast Guard regulations do stipulate that all cruise ships have uniform railing heights and safety procedures, but Walker said that installing motion detectors on ships could decrease response times greatly.

Motion sensors could decrease the response time to falls overboard.Motion sensors could decrease the response time to falls overboard.

Staff Safety
The researchers from Bergen reported that the most common part of the ship for staff injuries to occur was the galley, or kitchen. The hustle and bustle of a ship's kitchen is much like an ordinary cooking area with the added havoc of cooking for hundreds of people in an environment that tosses and sways with each passing wave. It's just such an environment in which slip-resistant shoes can help to prevent falls. No amount of staff training is going to calm the seas or decrease the hectic nature of cooking for an entire ship. Better equipment can, however, make a difference that really counts.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that slips and falls account for 18 percent of medical visits aboard cruise ships. By upgrading the safety equipment of the ship itself and that which the staff uses and wears, those numbers could decrease. There's no reason why a cruise can't be all that it is supposed to be: a fun, relaxing vacation on the open waters and a safe, interesting place of employment.

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