A report outlining poor safety standards on large motor yachts
What the Reporter told us:
Whilst berthed alongside in Costa Rica, a yacht arrived on the berth behind ours. We then witnessed an all too familiar sight, common in the yachting sector. Crew members were repeatedly seen accessing the bow of the yacht when washing down – in doing so, they exposed themselves to considerable risk. Initially it was clear that the crew were not wearing any safety harnesses when working at height and outboard of any rails, even though they risked falling on to a concrete dock or into the sea. In addition, it was noted that the crew were all barefoot, and that they were working on an inclined brow that was covered in soap. Later it was learned that one of the crew members working on the same deck was actually the captain. Time and time again these incidents are being observed in yacht marinas, but it is hard to decide what to do, because gaining the crew’s attention may cause them to fall.
Risk assessments and safe operating procedures must not only be in place but must be adhered to, and policed by senior officers. Less experienced crew, or crew carrying out tasks temporarily in other departments will not have the same risk awareness and aversion when carrying out routine tasks. Quite obvious hazards are often overlooked by crew when they are concentrating on a task. Ultimately, the safety culture on board dictates everybody’s approach to every task, no matter how routine it may seem.
Two examples of washing down and placing yourself in danger.
Having discussed this report, the Maritime Advisory Board agreed with the assessment of the reporter and in addition highlighted the importance of considering your personal safety. Whether yachts are large or small, whether they are operated as a charter for hire or crewed for an independent owner, these vessels require a consistent approach to managing safety on board. We recognise the aesthetics involved in maintaining these vessels and of course, decks regularly need washing down, but it is how these tasks are managed that is the important factor. The captain or skipper has a duty of care for all of his crew, and the crew themselves have a duty of looking after their own safety. It is suggested after looking at the two accompanying photographs, that a personal risk assessment could identify the following precautions to be considered when washing down:
- Use of non-slip footwear is recommended as opposed to working barefoot or wearing flip flops on a slippery soapy surface.
- Consider a waist belt harness when accessing areas where there is the potential to fall.
- Use of longer-handled tools and standing behind a rail is a simple and effective method to ensure your safety when accessing areas identified as potentially hazardous.
- In certain circumstances (but not always), a personal floatation device (PFD) may be helpful.
- Although both of these photographs were taken within a port, the timing and location of conducting such work should always be considered.
There may be other aspects which are specifically applicable to your vessel. At an on-board safety meeting or even at a coffee break why not sit down, examine the photos, and see how you can make improvements to ensure your own safety and avoid placing yourselves in the same sort of danger as highlighted in the pictures?
We should also mention that there may be an element of duress involved which prevents people taking obvious and simple safety precautions. If you feel that the task you are being asked to undertake is inherently unsafe – DON’T DO IT.
REMEMBER – It is YOUR health and YOUR life at risk.
CHIRP Maritime would be interested in hearing from others with similar experiences relating to safety in general, in order to widen the debate and learn more safety lessons.