Articles Posted in Maritime Safety

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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.

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The recent death of a worker on the Duwamish Waterway in South Seattle is a grave reminder of the importance of mooring line safety. John Henry Volkmann IV was trying to tie a gravel barge at the dock of a concrete plant on East Marginal Way South, when the mooring line he was working with broke. Mr. Volkmann was struck and fell into the water. Fire crews immediately responded and recovered Mr. Volkmann from the water, but he was in critical condition. He died at the scene.

When a mooring line parts or breaks, it is like a giant rubber band breaking, and as we know from past cases and incidents, the results can be debilitating or deadly to those working with the line. This training video  created by the US Navy may be dated, but it shows viewers just how dangerous a broken mooring line can be to nearby crew members.

According to a Risk Alert bulletin published by Steamship Mutual Loss Prevention, mooring lines require care, maintenance, and inspection. Steamship Mutual urges members to put a planned maintenance system in place to assure safety. Below are just a few recommendations for vessel owners:

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1280px-Scanning_electron_micrograph_of_Methicillin-resistant_Staphylococcus_aureus_MRSA_and_a_dead_Human_neutrophil_-_NIAIDWhen we hear or see the term MRSA, we think of outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes. But MRSA can be a problem anyplace people work and live in close quarters. According to the CDC, one in three people carries staph bacteria. It lives on the skin and in the nose. The CDC also reports that approximately one in 50 people carry MRSA. In the United States, cases of MRSA are responsible for about 90,000 serious infections and over 18,000 deaths per year. Infections should not be ignored, as they can spread quickly to cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, sepsis, and in very serious cases, loss of limbs or death.

What is MRSA?

MRSA is short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or any strain of staph bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics. The very same class of antibiotics that were once used to treat these infections are no longer effective due to the mutation of the bacteria.

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Broken-Lobster-Pot1200x636A new bill is on the way to the Maine State Legislature, and if Representative Mick Devin can get approval next year, a new task force of healthcare professionals and community leaders will work on one of the state of Maine’s greatest maritime issues; opioid drug abuse and addiction.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collect more data, it is reported that approximately 60,000 Americans died in 2016 from opioid overdose, almost a 100% increase over 2015, with 33,000 confirmed deaths. Nearly half of those involved prescription opioids. The same report concludes that among the deaths that involved Fentanyl, the Northeast states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island were among the highest in the nation. While there are currently no statistics by occupation, this is an issue that often hits the fishing industry hard.

The opioid crisis is especially complicated for people who work at sea. The work is physically demanding. Long hours of physical labor can cause severe pain, and injuries that are not allowed time to heal may become chronic. Fishermen are often at sea for weeks at a time or work in very remote locations away from healthcare. When healthcare is available, and opioids prescribed, the medication often runs out while workers are at sea. If pain is still present, workers may seek to utilize other options.

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Crab_fishing_boatThe overall safety of the commercial fishing industry is becoming safer every year. Those are the findings in a report issued by NIOSH in July of 2017. However, experts agree that an area that needs improvement concerns outdated stability reports. The US Coast Guard requires all fishing and crabbing vessels to carry a stability report which has been prepared by a Naval Architect. Problems arise when these reports are out of date.

According to A Best Practices Guide to Vessel Stability published by the US Coast Guard, vessel stability is defined as “the ability of a fishing vessel to return to its upright position after being heeled over by any combination of wind, waves, or forces from fishing operations.” If a vessel is “unstable”, it does not have sufficient ability to counter these external forces, therefore it is susceptible to capsizing.

The two variables in the stability equation are buoyancy and gravity. Buoyancy is the force acting to push the vessel up in the water, making the vessel float. In stability analysis, the total buoyancy forces are distributed over the part of the hull below the water, and the buoyancy of a vessel is a fixed variable as it is based on the architecture of the vessel. Gravity is the force acting to pull the vessel down in the water. The total weight of the vessel includes all gear, fuel, catch, ice, bait, etc. These weights are distributed throughout the hull, and mathematically combined into a single point called the center of gravity. Because weight is constantly being added and subtracted from a vessel, gravity is not a fixed variable; it is constantly in flux.