Basics of the International Safety Management Code

Seafaring work poses unique dangers that land-based work does not. As a result, American mariners are entitled to the protection of a number of federal laws that regulate shipboard safety and provide remedies for workers who are injured in maritime accidents. In addition to those laws, nearly all seamen – whether they are American or not – are protected by the International Safety Management (ISM) Code for ships.

The ISM Code is an integral part of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention. It serves a dual purpose to protect the safety of workers and protect against pollution of the sea.

The ISM Code sets a base standard that all ships must follow, regardless of the country in which they are registered.

The ISM Code imposes a number of duties on ships, including the following:

  • Obtaining a Document of Compliance from the ship’s flag state government that certifies the ship has an appropriate safety management system in place
  • Undergoing an audit to verify that the ship complies with the onboard Safety Management Manual
  • Regularly assessing all identified risks to the environment, the ship and its personnel, and then taking appropriate steps to remedy those risks
  • Establishing a managerial committee to oversee safety issues and to ensure that officers and employees are safely executing their duties

Every maritime worker has a right to expect that his or her ship will be reasonably safe and that officers will have taken steps to mitigate the dangers inherent in shipboard work.

Seamen who are hurt in maritime accidents have a right to seek compensation for their injuries. It’s always best to talk to an experienced maritime injury attorney before accepting a settlement from the employer’s insurance company.