Man overboard incidents are an ongoing problem worldwide in all sectors of the marine industry.
The following note offers some guidance that should be considered to prevent such incidents from occurring.
When working on (or near) the water there is an ever-present risk of inadvertently entering the water. Some activities create a much higher risk, and we would ask all owners and ships staff to consider the tasks that they undertake, where the chances of falling overboard are higher.
Identifying where there is a risk will help in raising awareness and reducing the chances of a man overboard occurring.
See below a non-exhaustive list of some examples of tasks where man overboard incidents often occur.
As noted, working on deck in challenging weather conditions is necessary or considered normal in some trades, e.g., fishing vessels, supply boats etc.
For these situations we strongly recommend that all personnel involved are provided with and compelled to wear adequately rated PFDs.
There are many options for PFDs, and time should be taken to identify the most suitable devices for the tasks being undertaken. Consideration should be shown to the required buoyancy of the unit and on the suitability for allowing normal work to take place unhindered. It will be difficult to make personnel wear a PFD for long periods of time if it is unwieldy and obstructive.
Working near the ships side is also essential for a wide array of tasks onboard. We would suggest that areas where this is necessary are provided with anti-slip coating and are adequately illuminated.
Personnel should not be left to work alone or out of sight on exposed decks
Whilst any work overside must be the subject of risk assessment, work permit, and toolbox talk (to ensure those involved understand their role in the work and the necessary safety precautions), there are some salient points that we have found are often neglected.
A downloadable poster can be found here that we recommend is printed out onboard and posted in suitable locations. Please also discuss the contents of this article at safety meetings, during familiarisation or in advance of work that meets the criteria covered.