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Housekeeping and safety in engine room - Guideline for ships

Merchant Shipping regulations require every dangerous part of a ship's machinery to be securely guarded unless it is so positioned or constructed that it is as safe as if it were securely guarded or is otherwise safeguarded.

The ISM Code requires companies to adopt a Safety Management System (SMS) and ensure the SMS is understood by staff, including training and guidance for safety systems. Summarized below are some basic safety precautions for working onboard machinery spaces. These procedures are only indicative, not exhaustive in nature and one must always be guided by practices of good seamanship

Engine room arrangement
Fig: Engine room arrangement -Main engine floor

Oily contaminated materials

All oil contaminated rags and other material shall be placed in metal containers and disposed ashore when required (no dumping or incinerating).


All pipe or pump leakages shall be repaired as soon as possible to limit the amount of bilge water that is in need of separation and eventually discharge overboard.

Ships machinery spaces
Ships machinery spaces

Engine Room Workshop

The engine room shall be kept tidy to allow hot work when required. No storage of flammable material is permitted. The personal protective equipment (PPE) shall be prepared in place.

Special Safety Items for attention

Special attention shall be paid to the following in the engine room:

Floor plates and ladders shall be free form oil or grease and be properly fixed to avoid tripping;

Exhaust manifolds on engines shall be properly insulated and protected by metal;

Exhaust manifolds and ducts through the entire casing shall be free from leakages;

When engine room is unmanned external entrances to the engine room shall be locked except designated entrances;

Steam pipes and other hot surfaces shall be properly lagged;

Insulation contaminated by oil or other flammable products shall be renewed;

No flammable material shall be left in buckets or open containers;

Short sounding pipes and automatic closing arrangements shall never be left open;

Bunker tank high level alarm shall be tested before each bunkering operation and at least monthly;

Leakages of fuel and lube oil shall be contained as soon as possible;

Thermometers and pressure gauges shall be tested and calibrated on a sequential basis allowing all to be tested annually;

Areas around fuel and lube oil heating and separating areas shall be kept free from any accumulation of oil;

The operation of the bilge water separator shall be strictly supervised by the Chief Engineer;

If any part of the fire detection system is temporarily disengaged due to any repair, e.g. hot work in the area, this shall be clearly mentioned on the work permit;

All rotating parts shall be kept protected;

Smoking is not allowed in the engine room; and

The incinerator shall be used as per manufacturer guideline

Monthly Safety Inspections to be carried out

Engine rooms by their very design are hazard areas to the unwary or unfamiliar for all sorts of reasons automatically starting machinery, loud noises, loud alarms, poorly indicated or signposted escape routes, 'blind' areas with no exit, etc.

It is suggested that engine room emergency escape doors and exit routes should be clearly highlighted using a fluorescent colour such as 'day glo' orange or yellow or painting the door with 'tiger stripes'. Whatever paint is used it should be a water based paint rather than an oil based so as not to affect the properties of the class 'A' fire doors that are always fitted to the engine room exits.

Any door that leads out from the engine room is effectively an 'emergency exit'. Some ladders in an engine room lead only to half decks where measurement equipment or gauges are located and these areas may not lead to an escape route and therefore they should be marked with a conspicuous NO EXIT sign. The most common escape route is the vertical trunking from various levels in the engine room usually located forward and leading onto the open deck or right aft from the stern tube area up to the airlock doors between the engine room and the steering flat door.

In the event of the engine room being filled with smoke, even light smoke, the escape routes and doors from the engine room may be obscured and therefore they should be more clearly indicated.

Related articles

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Practical standards of handing over engineering watch

Instructions to duty engineer during machinery operations

How to keep watch in machinery space while in port ?

How to ensure safe working atmosphere onboard?

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