Environmental health and hygiene on ships - The Galley

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14 August 2014/Categories: Inspector News

The Galley

This article has also been published in the SHIPSAN Newsletter under the section “Environmental health and hygiene on ships”. Section Editor: Martin Walker, Port Health Officer, Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority, Felixstowe, England


Martin Walker, Port Health Officer, Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority, Felixstowe, England

Key Message: The importance of hand washing for good personal hygiene, the SHIPSAN ACT recommended technique and facilities required.

At the recent joint Seafarers/Port Health Officers SHIPSAN ACT course held in Piraeus, both groups covered the issue of hand washing in relation to food handlers. Whilst it may seem to be an obvious issue of good personal hygiene to wash your hands at certain points (and particularly when handling food), there are a range of other important issues that need to be considered to ensure that effective handwashing is carried out and that food is handled safely, to prevent the spread of micro-organisms or other contaminants.


Equipment and facilities

Hand washing facilities and the equipment needed is specified in the SHIPSAN  Manual1 where item 3.5.27 refers the reader to section 7.2 in the Housekeeping and facilities section. Hand washing facilities should be supplied in food handling areas under 3.5.27 and 7.2.4 specifies that they should include hot and cold running water, single service paper or cloth towel dispenser or drying device, suitable liquid soap or detergent and a waste bin. Item 3.2.18 recommends that wash hand basin taps are operated by arm, elbow or foot contact to minimise hand contact.

The equipment required is to a different standard than that specified in the WHO Technical Handbook2  (which will apply to all vessels undertaking international voyages) which requires one dedicated hand washing station preferably in the galley, with soap (not necessarily liquid soap), means for hand drying (preferably disposable paper towels) and a waste towel receptacle. The item in the WHO Technical Handbook is 2.2.1. Can you see what else is not specifically mentioned here? Perhaps this might be an interesting discussion point.


SHIPSAN ACT Handwashing method

This can be found at Annex 14 of the SHIPSAN Act Manual and is reproduced below:


 During the training course, it was particularly good to see the professional seafarers using the practical way of ensuring that they spent the requisite 20 seconds using all the techniques above by referring to singing the Happy Birthday song twice to measure the time for steps 1-10. It is an important general point to inspectors that anything that you can do to communicate messages in a way that target audiences can readily understand is a key competency. There are other suggestions of useful techniques available  to communicate hand washing messages 3.

By practising this technique, the areas of the hand most frequently missed for effective handwashing will be addressed:



When to wash your hands

This is clearly set out in item 3.2.18 of the SHIPSAN Manual. The absolute requirement is as frequently as necessary. For this, professional awareness (or as we like to say in the UK, “common sense” has to be used). By knowing the risks this will largely determine when hand washing is required to control those risks. Item 3.2.18 further specifies situations when hand washing must always take place.


The inspection process – a trick of the trade

What is the easiest way to see if the facilities comply? As an inspector, before I enter the galley, I ask to wash my hands first. There are 3 reasons for this. Firstly, I am entering a food producing area and I do not wish to contaminate food or equipment (this is a key competency that an inspector must act ethically). Secondly, it lays down a marker that I am washing my hands before starting work (item 3.2.18). Thirdly, it is the first stage of my checks to see if a vessel complies with these basics, both for the availability and location of a hand washing station and it’s location together with the equipment available.

In the next issue, I will feature another relevant food safety issue in the Galley. If you have any good examples of cases that you would like to share with SHIPSAN ACT readers, please email details to me at


World Health Organization, International Health Regulations 2005, available through

1European Manual for Hygiene Standards and Communicable Diseases Surveillance on Passenger Ships (EU Ship Sanitation Training Network)

World Health Organization, 2011 Handbook for Inspection of Ships and Issuance of Ship Sanitation Certificates available through




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