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    Private GP Services & Occupational Healthcare in Edinburgh, UK.

    Obesity a rising concern for seafarers

    Seafarer medical certificate

    Posted on October 9th, 2014

    It was recently announced that new rules are to be introduced for ‘larger’ oil workers travelling to and from offshore installations by helicopter. According to BBC News, the ‘changes come after a study revealed the average oil worker had risen in weight by close to 20% over the past 30 years’.

    However, it isn’t just oil workers whose weight is increasing. Various studies have analysed the rising tide of obesity among seafarers (anyone that works at sea, or who has to go on a boat working commercially).

    All seafarers that go to sea must have a statutory medical examination every two years to prove they are in good enough health and fitness to carry out their duties.

    Some of the most important conditions affecting fitness, and in turn affecting your chance of passing your seafarer medical examination, are heart attacks, artery disease and diabetes – conditions that can be directly linked to obesity.

    Dr Philip Rutledge, who carries out seafarer medical examinations at YourGP, says: “Obesity is one of the big issues at the moment affecting both seafarers and society in general.

    “Determining whether people are fit to do the job when they are overweight is a problem, and I sometimes have to give seafarers restrictions on their certificate because there are safety issues for them and others working with them.”

    Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most commonly accepted measure of general obesity, and is one of the tests included in seafarer medical examinations.

    Adults are classed as overweight if their BMI is between 25 and 30, obese if their BMI is 30 to 40 and morbidly obese if their BMI is 40 or more.

    According to the Scottish Health Survey, the proportion of Scottish adults aged 16 to 64 categorised as overweight or obese is currently 61.9%.

    Although BMI measurement can be effective, Dr Rutledge, one of only three Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) approved doctors in Edinburgh, explains that it does not always provide a complete picture.

    He explains: “A fit rugby player who plays for their national country could have a high BMI but I would pass them fit to go on a boat.

    “However, if a 55-year-old has a high BMI and most of his weight around his waist, I would have to question whether he is fit to do his job.”

    If Dr Rutledge has any concerns about your weight or fitness at your examination, you may be given a ‘temporarily unfit certificate’ or restricted certificate.

    If you want to find out more about seafarer medical examinations or discuss obesity with one of our friendly, experienced GPs, call 0131 225 5656 or email

    Alternatively, you can request an appointment using our booking form or come and visit us at our clinic in Dean Village, Edinburgh.

    I needed a quick appointment as I was leaving for America. The doctor listened and allayed any concerns. It was a pleasure to talk to a doctor who wasn’t watching the clock and not paying attention to me. I left confident that if a problem arose I would be able to deal with it until I arrived home. The experience left me feeling confident and positive.

    Roseann Y

    YourGP is regulated by Healthcare Improvement Scotland – the regulator for independent healthcare services across Scotland. Healthcare Improvement Scotland accepts complaints at any time. Contact them at:

    Independent Healthcare Team
    Gyle Square | 1 South Gyle Crescent | Edinburgh | EH12 9EB
    0131 623 4342 |

    YourGP is registered with the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) Registered Office: Station Road, North Street, Havant PO9 1QU.