Mapping the Occupational Health and Safety Challenges Arising from Employment-Related Geographical Mobility (E-RGM) Among Canadian Seafarers on the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Desai SHAN, University of Ottawa, Canada
Shipping on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway connects the trade between Canada, the US and the world. Meanwhile, these and other seafarers have to live and work with different scales of employment-related geographical mobility, including intra-provincial commuting movement every 6-12 weeks from home to port and vice versa, as well as domestic and international transport movement on a 24/7 basis between Canadian and the US ports (Cresswell et al. 2016). Based on twenty in-depth semi-structured interviews, this research examines how E-RGM and the related regulatory frameworks may create health and safety challenges for these Canadian seafarers. The regulatory frameworks involve multi-level international and federal legal sources, including international maritime conventions, the Canada Shipping Act, Canada Labour Code and Maritime Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, implemented by various agencies, including the Flag State (Canada), the Port State (the US) and authorized third parties, such as Classification Societies.

Their high-level of mobility makes ships a working environment temporarily disconnected from land-based society and services. The findings indicate that as a result of this disconnection, seafarers have to sacrifice to a certain extent their individual rights to ensure the overall safety of the ship. In addition, high-level E-RGM increases workloads on ships. Seafarers are not only required to navigate safely in narrow seaways, locks and canals between the lakes, but are also responsible for cargo discharging, and obliged to control and manage potential pollutants on board. Long working hours, shift works and the motion of ships can cause significant fatigue for the crew. Fatigue is reported to be a prominent cause of accidents and injuries among seafarers. Finally, new technologies are speeding up cargo operation in ports and strict security measures have reduced the chance for seafarers to take shore breaks, which further intensifies the isolation and fatigue suffered by seafarers.