PURPOSE: To get knowledge of the work environment for seafarers sailing under the Swedish flag, in terms of safety climate, ergonomical, chemical and psychosocial exposures, and the seafarers self-rated health and work ability.
METHODS: A Web-based questionnaire was sent to all seafarers with a personal e-mail address in the Swedish Maritime Registry (N = 5608). Comparisons were made mainly within the study population, using Student's t test, prevalence odds ratios and logistic regressions with 95% confidence intervals.
RESULTS: The response rate was 35% (N = 1972; 10% women, 90% men), with 61% of the respondents working on deck, 31% in the engine room and 7% in the catering/service department (1% not classifiable). Strain on neck, arm or back and heavy lifting were associated with female gender (p = 0.0001) and younger age (below or above 30 years of age, p < 0.0001). Exposures to exhausts, oils and dust were commonly reported. Major work problems were noise, risk of an accident and vibrations from the hull of the ship. The safety climate was high in comparison with that in land-based occupations. One-fourth had experienced personal harassment or bullying during last year of service.
CONCLUSIONS: Noise, risk of accidents, hand/arm and whole-body vibrations and psychosocial factors such as harassment were commonly reported work environment problems among seafarers within the Swedish merchant fleet.