Articles Posted in Maritime Safety

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Coos-BayThe U.S. Coast Guard recently responded to a call from the 36-foot fishing vessel, Lacie Belle, that a crewmember was suffering from seizures. The call came in at 5:25 p.m. and by 5:54 p.m. an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Sector North Bend was on the scene, approximately 10 miles north of Cape Blanco.

The Coast Guard sent a rescue swimmer down to assess the crewmember and determined that the man needed immediate medical attention. A basket was sent down to the fishing vessel and the crewmember was hoisted to the waiting helicopter (watch the heroic video). The crewmember was successfully airlifted to medical personnel at the Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Oregon by 6:28 p.m.

Seizures can happen anytime or any place, but when they occur on a fishing vessel, it is even more important for crewmembers to know how to respond. While there are many types of seizures, most people are familiar with the generalized tonic-clonic seizure, also known as a grand mal seizure, in which a person, falls, shakes, jerks, and cries out. If this happens while at sea, a crewmember must take charge and do the following:

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Everyone wants a culture of safety. Vessel owners want it, maritime workers want it, and their friends and families want it. But what is it and what steps must an organization or vessel owner take to establish it? It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It must start at the top, and it must feature consistency, trust, and truth. It is about doing the right thing even when no one is looking.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency established as the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping, safety culture is defined as follows:

“An organization with a ‘safety culture’ is one that gives appropriate priority to safety and realizes that safety has to be managed like all other areas of the business.”

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Ladder-1024x640There are times when a maritime worker must access high areas on a vessel or travel from one deck to another. In these instances, it makes sense that ladders and steps would be employed. If working at sea weren’t already hazardous enough, enter the dangers of ladders, steps, and gangways.

Ladders can be such a hazard, that the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a Ladder Safety App for workers, employers, and homeowners. The app contains information and tools to prevent extension and step ladder-related fall injuries and deaths. The app is free, and it has been downloaded over 120,000 times. According to the CDC, ladder and step accidents happen for many reasons, but the following are most common:

  • Incorrect extension ladder setup angle
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C-S_System_OverviewApril 6th is National 406 Day. It is easy to remember, as the date (04/06) corresponds to the 406 MHz frequency used by these devices to transmit digital signals to satellites. These beacons are considered by many in the maritime trades to be the best life insurance available. And in some cases, they are legally required by vessel owners. To read more about safety gear, please see our page regarding life rafts, EPIRBs and survival suits. National 406 Day is also a reminder to anyone with a beacon that federal law requires registration to be current.

What exactly is an EPIRB? It is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that works by transmitting a signal via satellite that can then be relayed to a rescue coordination center. The device can be automatically activated (for example if the device is under more than 3 meters of water) or manually activated to transmit a distress signal.

Here is a list of 8 tips NOAA recommends when handling your EPIRB:

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Brain_Scan-1024x731The U.S. Coast Guard recently received an alarming call; a 44-year-old male appeared to be suffering a stroke while working on the fishing vessel GOLDEN ALASKA, which was located approximately 60 miles northeast of Cold Bay. Time is of the essence when treating a stroke, but what happens when the victim is out at sea? The U.S. Coast Guard forward deployed assets are crucial for this type of incident, as they are saving precious time getting crewmembers to proper medical services.

However, it is up to crewmembers to recognize stroke symptoms, report them, and get help as quickly as possible. March 12th marks the beginning of National Brain Awareness week, and this case reminds us just how important it is to know the signs of a stroke and what to do if you or a crewmate suffer the same fate. According to The American Stroke Association, stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in our nation, and the leading cause of disability. Someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds (about 800,000 strokes happen per year).

What is a stroke?

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Coast-Guard-MH-60-JayhawkOnce again, the benefits of having Coast Guard assets forward deployed were realized when a crewmember aboard the F/V Island Enterprise was found unconscious in the freezer compartment of the vessel last week.

Watchstanders at the 17th Coast Guard District command center were contacted on February 16th at approximately 5:30 p.m. by Health Force Partners. The agency is contracted by many vessel owners to provide injury and illness treatment as well as occupational assessments. Watchstanders in turn contacted the Coast Guard duty flight surgeon, who recommended the medevac for the unconscious worker.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew hoisted the 57-year-old man from the vessel then transported him to Cold Bay, then on to Anchorage for emergency medical treatment. This was the sixth reported Coast Guard medevac rescue for the winter fishing season.

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MLB-Cape-Disappointment-300x197The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River was contacted on Monday morning after a worker was injured while installing a recirculation system aboard the bulk carrier Ergina Luck. The worker fell into the bilge, and it was reported that both his legs and back were injured in the fall and that he was unable to walk. The Ergina Luck was anchored in Astoria at the time of the accident.

The Clatsop County high-angle rescue team was transported from Station Cape Disappointment aboard a 47-foot Motor Life Boat to assist and transport the injured man. The rescue team immobilized the injured worker, then carried him up three sets of stairs before he could be lowered to the crew members aboard the MLB. He was then transported to emergency medical services at the 17th Street Pier in Astoria, Oregon.

The injured man is employed by Degesch America at their Portland, Oregon location. The company specializes in fumigation, degassing, and abatement services for bulk carrier vessels. The incident is under investigation.

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Cold-Bay-USCG-1024x520A 25-year-old man was airlifted by the U.S. Coast Guard from the 107-foot fishing vessel Bering Hunter after he fell and suffered a head injury.

Watchstanders at the 17th Coast Guard District command center received a call from the captain of the vessel, stating that a crewmember had fallen and sustained a head injury. The Coast Guard duty flight surgeon recommended the medevac, and a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew was dispatched to the Bering Hunter location.

“Having assets forward deployed to Cold Bay during the winter fishing season allows our crews to respond quickly,” said Lt. J.G. Rian Ellis, a 17th district watchstander. “We are able to eliminate hours of flight time in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, ensuring the safety of mariners.”

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Shipwreck-1024x683In a precedent-setting case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that injured fishermen and seamen are indeed entitled to punitive damages under maritime law unseaworthiness guidelines. In reaching this decision in the case of Batterton v. Dutra Group, the Ninth Circuit Court referenced the outcome of several cases, including Tabingo v. American Triumph LLC, a landmark case handled by Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC, in the Washington State Supreme Court (read about this case here). The court found that if a shipowner acts “recklessly” and creates an unseaworthy condition, the injured seaman may sue for punitive damages in addition to damages for lost income, pain and suffering, retraining costs, and all other damages.

Batterton Case Background

Christopher Batterton was a deckhand working aboard a vessel owned and operated by Dutra Group. His left hand was crushed when a hatch cover blew open. As air was pumped into a compartment below, the pressure rose to dangerous levels. This accident was directly caused by the absence of an exhaust system. With no exhaust system, the vessel was deemed “unseaworthy”. Batterton sued the vessel owner and sought punitive damages in addition to other damages. The injuries sustained in that accident caused permanent disability to Batterton and took away his livelihood.

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capstan_deck_winchOne of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on any fishing vessel is the winch; drum winch, capstan and/or cathead. So many accidents and fatalities have been caused by winch entanglements, that in 2012 the US Coast Guard teamed up with NIOSH after the tragic death of a 15-year-old boy. The boy was killed when his clothing became caught in a winch on a shrimp boat. The accident set in motion a project to study these types of accidents and find solutions.

According to Ted Teske, a Health Communications Specialist with NIOSH, a fisherman who is caught and pulled into the winch has no way to stop the equipment. This is because the turn-off switch is mounted on the back of the wheelhouse, far from the winch and the entanglement. Unless someone is at the controls and can swiftly turn off the winch, it will spin several times before stopping.

Teske helped develop a simple device called an E-Stop, or “emergency stop”, that is accessible to a seaman who is caught or entangled in the winch. This simple device interrupts the flow of hydraulic fluid to the winch during an emergency. The E-Stop mounts right on top of the winch. If a fisherman is caught and pulled into harm’s way, the button is within reach. The entangled worker simply hits the button to stop the winch. The system can easily be reset by a crewmember after detanglment. The kit is easy to install, and the company provides all the materials needed, including a custom button, templates, and the cutting heads needed to cut through the winch horn.