OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

Titanic BioHazard

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titanic 112

Arguably one of the most iconic shipwrecks in history, this 1912 disaster was turned into a romantic thriller told from the perspective of a Rose Calvert, (a fictional character who was a passenger aboard the titanic during its faithful voyage). Ask anyone, anyone who has viewed the movie in fact, and each person would give you their own personal opinion of the film, some ideas mainstream, while others would be a little more unorthodox. One idea of which falls into the latter category is the idea that the ship Titanic, (neglecting the rest of elements in the film), was riddled with health and safety violations when examined in accordance with the (OSH) Act (2004) as amended (2006). The following discussion seeks to support this claim as these scenes were viewed to be in direct violation with the Act.

Side note, – Given the three hour length of the movie, we shall be focusing on violations that took place on board the ship itself. Neglecting other supporting, surrounding scenes.

Side note, – Hyperlinks of relevant scenes are embedded in blue underlined texts throughout this discussion.

The Engine & Boiler Rooms

At around 28:42 minutes into the film, viewers get their first look at what can be considered the Titanic’s beating heart,
its engine room.
2 titanic

On the surface this immaculate spectacle of moving parts would wow many, but when viewed from a safety standpoint, it’s easy, and scary to see exactly what hazardous conditions some workers on board the ship were subjected to work under.

Narrow walkways high above the ground, mammoth sized moving machinery, coupled with no safety  equipment for employees all added to the peril within this engine room, but shockingly enough, none of this could compare to the
3 titanicthat workers of the boiler room faced. For this brief scene, workers can be viewed toiling in a poorly ventilated, overcrowded, extremely heated work space, where any one of the previously mentioned hazardous characteristics can prove to reduce the health, or be fatal to workers exposed to such an area for a prolonged period of time.

The Captain

  At 50:58 the captain was being urged to start the remaining of the boilers, he then makes a comment saying that the engine have not been “run-in” yet. Taking into consideration, greed and fame, being the reason for trying to push the ships limits as to achieve the journey in lesser time. This is in reference to the first starting of the engine in which it is started up for the first time and operated and tested under load conditions. This process if done unsuccessfully will result in damage to the engine and would have resulted in the exposure of the crew and to the passengers to harm.

4 titanic

The first ice warning occurred at 1:12:51, at this point the captain is given a warning of the presence of ice and uses this opportunity to announce that the last boiler was lit, in doing this he not only ignored the fact that there was the presence of ice but he also decided to increase his velocity. In doing so, his actions were reckless and endangered the ship, crew and the passengers to which he held a duty of care. In the OSH act, in the section regarding the “Duties of Persons employed”, “it states that, “no person should not willfully or recklessly endanger their lives or that of others.” The captain at this point is clearly in breach of this statement as he chooses to ignore the warning, and increase his speed.

The Sinking Of the Titanic

From a safety and health perspective, this is where the nightmare lies. As the ship sinks, numerous perilous conditions presents itself;

1st)The lack in the availability of safety and disaster equipment,- 

5 titanic

The titanic was only supplied with enough life boats, (20 in fact), to save about one-third of the crew and passengers on board. However there were enough life jackets for everyone, but most passengers and crew failed to wear them. It should be noted though that at that time, there were no safety regulations in place for a ship of that size. Nevertheless there was a requirement in place called the 1894 Merchant Shipping Act, which “required that the number of lifeboats be in direct proportion with the ships gross tonnage.”

In fact, at 1:13:23 in, Rose mentions to Mr. Andrews that the number of lifeboats are less than that necessary for the full number of crew and passengers, at this point he goes on to say that he had designed for more lifeboats, but was overruled, and that these were the total amount he was allowed, due to the appearance of the ship being cluttered if more was added. Historically that statement was proven to be true as the reason behind the less than adequate number of lifeboats.

2nd) Ship deck overcrowded,-In accordance with the Act, “an establishment shall not be so overcrowded as to cause risk of injury to the health of the persons employed therein.” It is without a doubt that this requirement is violated during this scene, as hundreds of people occupied the deck of the ship at this single given time. Chances of being injured or even trampled to death increased tenfold, as patrons rush about with little regard for each other’s safety.

3rd) Electrical, water and structural hazards,

The first scene that showed critical danger with regard to water and electrical current occurred at 1:59:31, where Rose was making an attempt to save handcuffed Jack. At this point, you could see Rose nearly completely submerged in salt water, maneuvering with axe in hand, while electrical sparks are scene in the background. 6 titanic
The entire ship had still electrical power flowing through it, although it was being submerged. This is a clear danger to anyone still on board at the time, as one is not to be in contact with water when exposure to electricity is prevalent.  As from one 1 milliamp, one would perceive a tingling sensation, far less for being submerged in water where there are electrical outlets.



  1. David L. Goetsch. (2015). The Basics of Occupational Safety. Prentice Hall.

Online Resources:

  1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120338/
  2. http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=5151
  3. http://www.rina.org.uk/lifeboat-embarkation.html
  4. http://wallpaperres.com/2015/03/06/titanic-large-ship-01/
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-Z8la_6cuI
  6. http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/magazine/2013/july/electric-shock-drowning-explained.asp
  7. http://www.historyofthetitanic.org/titanic-lifeboats.html

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