Over the years, most common work-related injuries and fatality rates have decreased thanks to an increase in workplace health and safety measures. But there is still a lot of work to do to get that number down to zero.

The most common work injuries are slips, trips, and falls, overexertion, and contact with equipment. All of these injuries are mostly preventable by taking the proper precautions and adhering to workplace procedures. In this article, we’ll look at the most common work-related injuries and provide some helpful guidelines on how to prevent them.

If you are currently experiencing any type of workplace injury, do not wait to seek medical attention. Even if it seems small, injuries due to falls, overexertion, burns, etc. can progress over time and cause serious complications later on.

The 7 most common workplace injuries

  1. Slips, trips, and falls

Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common types of workplace injuries and are the top reason for worker’s compensation claims. This includes workers who:

  • Slipped on an icy, oily, or wet floor
  • Tripped due to unprotected sides or holes, poor lighting, or clutter
  • Fell off ladders, roofs, cabin tops, etc.

These types of injuries can be prevented by being aware of your surroundings and by following the operational procedure for Working at Heights

  1. Overexertion and muscle strains

Overexertion injuries like muscle strains and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) can cause long-term debilitating pain and lead to an overall loss in productivity. This type of occupational injury can be caused by:

  • Improper lifting technique
  • Manually lifting heavy objects
  • Repetitive work with no breaks
  • Jumping to another level
  • A collapsing structure
  • Lifting, pushing, carrying, or throwing
  • Microtasks on a factory line
  • Typing or moving a mouse without good ergonomics

To prevent overexertion and muscle strains you should always be following an operational procedure for Manual Handling. Remember, if it’s too heavy ask someone else to help you or use a lifting device or forklift.

To avoid overexertion and reduce your risk for lasting physical harm, ensure you take frequent breaks and that you are using that time to rest and stretch

Untreated injuries can progress over time, causing you more issues down the road.

  1. Struck by workers, equipment, or falling objects

We’ve all walked into the sharp edge of a counter or turned into a wall, but when you’re working in a high-risk industry, these injuries can be far more serious. These types of injuries can include severe hand injuries, severed limbs or fingers, traumatic head injuries, stress fractures or full bone breaks, blindness, and more.

Workplace injuries of this nature are commonly caused by:

  • Poorly guarded machinery
  • Falling tools, debris, or materials
  • A part of the worker’s body being caught in a winch, wire or gears
  • Dropped loads
  • Pressure between the person and the source of the injury
  • The tipping over of heavy equipment
  • Excessive vibration
  • Bumping into an object or equipment
  • Being pushed into a hard surface of any kind
  • Walking into walls or machinery

Thankfully, many of these accidents can be prevented by staying aware of your surroundings, following established policies and procedures, using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), avoiding loose clothing, and putting away unnecessary hazards.

What happened to the Master: Do you know?

  1. Crashes or collisions

Whether you’re driving a motor vehicle, including forklifts or are working around them, you are at risk of getting hurt in a crash or collision. For example, if you’re working on the ground in a warehouse, you could be hit or run over by a forklift.

Other instances resulting in a crash or collision could include:

  • Falling from a vehicle
  • Forklift roll-over
  • Getting stuck under an overturned vehicle
  • Large-truck drivers drinking and driving
  • Being struck by objects falling from a vehicle
  • Semi, tractor-trailer, and tanker truck crashes

When operating any type of motorised vehicle, ensure you are wearing your seat belt and taking the proper safety measures established by your employer.

Collision V Grounding DO you know the difference?

  1. Exposure to harmful substances or environments

Those who work in loud environments or around hazardous chemicals risk severe injuries to their ears, eyes, skin, and respiratory systems if they are exposed without proper protection.

Be sure to familiarise yourself with any chemical safety data sheets and wear proper ear protection, safety goggles, gloves, and any other required PPE when exposed to harmful substances or loud noises.

6. Fire and explosions

Fires and explosions can burn your body tissue, cause severe damage to your respiratory system, and potentially cause disfigurement. This type of workplace injury is not too common, but it does have the highest casualty rate depending on how close you are to the blast. Injuries for explosions are categorized into four types based on level of impact to your body:

  • Primary blast: injury caused by the blast wave unique to high order explosions
  • Secondary blast: injury due to flying objects or debris displaced by the blast wind
  • Tertiary blast: injury due to displacement through the air or a structure collapse
  • Quaternary blast: all other injuries including crush injuries, burns, radiation, and inhaling toxic substances

To avoid these types of injuries, ensure that you and your co-workers are following Operational procedures, wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and maintaining chemical safety data sheets for all chemicals.

  1. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals

As much as we’d like to think that fighting at work doesn’t exist, it does happens! Compounding stress and tension can result in an aggressive confrontation from an employee or customer, leading to harassment, intimidation, and even physical assault. Injury caused by animals can also be a concern for commercial fishers, foresters and individuals working on a farm or in other environments where animals, like dogs, are present.

One of the best ways for a worker to avoid workplace violence is to set a zero-tolerance policy covering all individuals who come in contact with company personnel. When working with animals, you can reduce injury by wearing the proper attire, following guidelines set by your employer, and staying alert at all times.

Common causes of work-related fatalities

The “fatal four” work-related fatalities leading to death include:

  • Being struck by a moving vehicle or object / motor vehicle crashes
  • Slips, trips, and falls from tall heights
  • Electrocutions
  • Getting caught in or between machines, devices, or tools

Although you cannot control when an accident occurs, there are steps you can take to reduce work-related injuries and help keep yourself safe.

If you feel or suspect that the safety of yourself or others are at risk, never hesitate to report it to your company.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend you review your operational procedures in relation to all tasks undertaken on your vessel or in your workplace. Ensure they are clear, conscience and easy to follow.

Secondly it’s vital that you review your emergency procedures relative to your operations to ensure your workers know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Remember, keeping your procedures up to date is a legal requirement under the Work Health and Safety Act and associated Regulations.


Tip

While keeping your procedures up to date is great if workers have not been inducted into procedures relevant to their assigned tasks they are all but useless!

Ensure you induct all workers into procedures relevant to their operations and the best tip we can give you is to have a sign off page for all procedures and have each worker sign off them.

 

Drowning doesn’t mean flailing arms and calling for help.

 

 Knowing these silent signs of drowning can mean the difference between life and death.

 

 This newsletter is not only for those at sea but is critical knowledge for anyone around water anywhere!

 

If two or more people are in the water, which one do you rescue first?

Unfortunately, the fact is that often those watching don’t know what to look for because drowning doesn’t look like drowning.

Do you go first to the person waving their arms and yelling or to the one who is quiet and not waving and yelling?

In most cases you’re going to the person who is NOT waving and yelling!

Read on to discover what you need to look for….

 

To ward off a tragedy in the making, watch for these 8 signs that someone is in trouble!

 

  1. They can’t call for help
    They have to be able to breathe before they can speak. When a person is drowning, their mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There isn’t time for them to exhale, inhale, and call out.

  1. They can’t wave for help either.
    A drowning person instinctively extends their arms to the sides and presses down to lift their mouth out of the water; a child may extend their arms forward. They can’t use their arms to wave, move toward a rescuer or reach for rescue equipment.
  1. They remain upright in the water with no evidence of kicking. They can struggle for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.
  1. Their eyes are glassy and unable to focus or closed.
  1. Their face may be hard to see as their hair may be over their forehead or eyes.
  1. Their Head is low in the water with their mouth at water level and their head may be tilted back with mouth open. A child’s head may fall forward.
  1. They are quiet.
    Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.
  1. They don’t seem in distress.
    Sometimes the most important indicator that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they are drowning. They may just seem to be looking up at the sky, shore or the vessel. Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all, they probably are BUT if they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend you and your crew and/or workers if they work around water, know the 8 quite signs of a person drowning AND have up to date CPR training.

By simply knowing these signs allows you to understand the difference between someone who needs immediate help and another who may be able to survive a little longer when there are 2 or more persons in the water.


Tip

When someone is in the water throw anything that floats towards them to help support them until you can rescue them. If there’s a lifebuoy close at hand throw it towards them.

Remember you don’t want this to be the last thing you see of the victim!

Since March 2020, the marine industry has had many highs and lows. From little or no business, to high levels and too often without enough staff. Staffing in Australia and indeed the world over in most industries is an ongoing major issue.

Whilst the supply of goods by sea and some services has continued throughout the pandemic, we now face staff shortages both on sea and land which makes the working conditions continue to be challenging.

Maritime safety data and research highlight a critical need for the marine industry mental health and wellbeing to be managed more effectively, to achieve better outcomes. Here at Shorlink, we take mental health as serious as safety.

Stress can lead to mental health issues. This newsletter provides information and guidance to provide business owners’ and Masters with strategies to help alleviate the effects of stress.

It also talks about the importance of educating crew about mental health, in order to create a culture on board in which crew are able to identify when their fellow crew members are experiencing poor mental health and support one another.

Educating Crew!

It is important that masters receive adequate education on the psychological impact of stress and mental health issues. Masters need to:

  • have a good knowledge of both the short and long-term consequences of stress
  • ensure crew in their charge have appropriate information and awareness
  • establish prevention and minimisation programs
  • be able to identify crew members having problems
  • initiate the necessary assistance if required—this may include masters and senior crew being instructed in mental health first aid.

Recognise the signs of possible mental health problems!

If a crew member displays any of the following behaviours, they may be experiencing mental health problems:

  • appears to withdraw, isolates themselves, or seems quieter than usual
  • appears distressed
  • agitated or irritable
  • difficulty managing work or workload
  • more argumentative, aggressive or gets into conflicts
  • confused, unusually forgetful or has
  • trouble concentrating
  • behaving in a way that is out of character.

The following are some suggestions which can be used to assist crew members suffering from mental health difficulties:

  • spend time with the person
  • offer your assistance and a listening ear, but do not intrude on that person’s privacy. Be mindful that there may sometimes be deeper problems that underlie the initial problem they mention
  • help them with any practical arrangements they require
  • do not take their emotions personally, as this is probably a part of their reaction
  • do not downplay or dismiss their problems. Do not tell them they are ‘lucky the situation isn’t worse’—they probably don’t feel lucky
  • help them to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as possible. If possible, include them in the activities of others
  • encourage them to be active and involved
  • encourage them to look at what they can manage, rather than just thinking about what they want to avoid.

Managing crew reactions!

After a mental health-related or other stressful event, crew members are often very sensitive to:

  • how others react to them
  • how others may describe the event and the role of the crew member involved,
  • particularly in terms of their reactions to their colleagues.

The extent to which the work/social network validates or invalidates the experience has a very important effect upon the crew members psychological adaptation or recovery.

If all crew are aware of the stressors and their potential impact, the experience of crew members having a mental health issue is more likely to be recognised and validated. If masters are aware of the principles of mental health first aid, crew are more likely to receive appropriate support following mental health issues.

Crews with low morale typically exhibit the highest risk for psychological injuries. This is because strong morale acts as a buffer or protective layer against the effects of mental health issues and other stressors.

This should be factored into decisions that may affect the management of mental health risk.

At regular intervals, the master should schedule the following:

  • An informal debrief—this provides crew with the ability to say how they are going and allows for the reiteration of mental health information and awareness
  • recognition by a valued authority— have someone, like the master, acknowledge the crew and the efforts they have made
  • follow up contact with crew members who may have been identified as likely to suffer mental health issues to see how they are travelling.

Owners and operators need to ensure that the conditions in which their crew work and live do not exacerbate mental health problems.

A crew members ability to access mental health services at sea is limited, hence the incorporation of strategies for mental health interventions is an essential service.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Training staff, from Master to deckhands on mental health first aid is imperative to ensure the business is providing a healthy working environment.

Breaking down the stigma, both on board and ashore, regarding mental health issues. It should be no different than any other injury or illness.

Be alert for potential signs of mental health issues among crew members.

Proactively manage cases of mental health issues, including repatriation if appropriate.

Maintain a fair, just and supportive crew environment, as part of a positive safety culture. Resource poor environment is even more important.

Specific attention is needed in higher risk periods of the work-life cycle, such as during periods of contract extension, operating season and inability to take shore leave.


Tip

It all starts from the top down – both with attitude and education!

Emphasis should be given to training for mental health awareness and resilience. Owners and Masters should be trained in mental health first aid.

If you have any questions, or require assistance with training, please contact our office.

This is important! Please do not hesitate to share this with colleagues, bosses, friends and family.

Here’s hoping everyone got something out of last week’s issue, and it inspired at least some but hopefully all to check their vessel and workplace fire apparatus and equipment.

To follow on from last week a good starting point is to go back to fire basics and look at the fire triangle which includes Fuel – Heat – Oxygen.

What’s important to remember is if you remove just one of those items you have no fire!

Another point to remember is that a fire can get out of control within seconds and can generate heat in excess of 1,000°C.

This alone should encourage people to take action quickly unless you have some strange underlying desire to suffer serious injury and burns!

Here’s a few of the more common areas where the potential for a fire is quite high.

  1. Engine and/or machinery rooms: leaking fuel or hydraulic/oil lines and bags of rags
  2. The galley or kitchen: oil fires and stoves and other appliances left unattended
  3. Store rooms: paint, grease, oil fires, cardboard/paper fires, etc.
  4. Accommodation areas: mobile phone/tablet/laptop chargers and overloaded power boards

Leaking fuel or hydraulic lines are often the cause of fires in engine and machinery rooms. Fuel or oil leaking onto hot engine components, especially exhausts or turbo chargers is a fire about to happen.

Bags of damp or used rags left in engine or machinery rooms are also a recipe for fire.

The picture below shows a leaking fuel line and a bag of rags, both major causes of fires!.

The answer to these and most other potential fire hazards is regular inspections of fuel and hydraulic/oil lines and ensuring the safe storage and disposal of rags.

Oil fires on stoves are another common cause of fires as is leaving cooking appliances unattended which usually happens when someone calls the cook to help them with something.

Knowing how to use a fire blanket is vital but during training session we deliver unfortunately very few people actually know how to use them to extinguish and mitigate reignition.

Here’s what everyone should know about using fire blankets.

  1. Pull the tabs to remove it from the packet and open the fire blanket
  2. Take hold of the tabs and flick the top over your hands
  3. Approach the fire slowly with the blanket just below your eyes
  4. Place it gently over the fire. DO NOT throw it as this will fan the fire
  5. Then the step that just about everyone misses – turn off the power or gas supply!
  6. Leave it in place for at least 20 – 30 minutes or longer
  7. Remove it using the tabs to slowly slide it back towards you

Note that when you’ve used a fire blanket it cannot be re-used and must be replaced.

We have a major hate in the use of power boards and charging phones, tablets and laptops in accommodation areas.

These are known causes of fires not only onboard vessels but in offices and homes as well.

The picture below shows a power board that’s overheated and was the start of a fire!

People in their bunks get up and inadvertently throw bedding over the item which causes an extra build-up of heat and there’s your fire waiting to happen.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

As per last week’s recommendation and for your safety and the safety of all others and vessel or premises ensure you have a procedure in place and that you undertake regular drills.

Secondly, monitor the use of extension leads and power boards to ensure they are not overload.

And remember, if you take away one side of the triangle (fuel, heat or oxygen) you extinguish the fire!


Tip

It’s a standing rule on the boats we manage, and in our homes that there is no charging of mobile phones, etc. in cabins or bedrooms and it’s a tip for you to follow!

While it’s sad but true, all of us are getting older and with age comes health problems for many but the big one, the silent killer is heart attack.

Over the last few years there has been a number of Masters suffering heart attacks while at sea and that can cause a serious problem for the vessel and all persons onboard.

It’s not just Masters, we’ve had mates, engineers, deckhands and even cooks and special staff go down with heart attacks.

Fortunately, most of those have recovered and many are still in the industry providing their valuable knowledge and experience to up and coming crew members.

It’s not the best topic but its one that needs to be addressed as it’s not just older people suffering heart attacks.

With today’s changing lifestyle many younger people are falling victim to heart attacks so it’s important that you not only know the signs but also how to deal with a person suffering from a heart attack.

You need to be able to answer these 2 key questions …

  1. Do you know the signs of a heart attack? and
  2. Do you know how to deal with a person suffering from a heart attack?

If you don’t know the answers to those questions you best find out now because not knowing can put lives at risk…one of which may be yours!

Knowing the signs

 

How can a silent heart attack be silent?

A silent heart attack is just like any other, and just as damaging. Your heart needs oxygen-rich blood to function.

If plaque (which consists of fat, cholesterol, and other substances) builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the heart, this blood flow can be significantly or completely cut off.

The longer your heart doesn’t have blood flow, the more damage that occurs. Because silent heart attacks may go unnoticed, they can cause a significant amount of damage and, without treatment, they can be deadly.

The good news is that you can prepare by knowing these 4 silent signs of a heart attack.

The 4 key signs of a silent heart attack

 

  1. Chest Pain, Pressure, Fullness, or Discomfort

Sometimes the pain from a heart attack is sudden and intense, which makes them easy to recognize and get help. But, what about when it’s not?

Most heart attacks actually involve only mild pain or discomfort in the centre of your chest. You may also feel pressure, squeezing, or fullness. These symptoms usually start slowly, and they may go away and come back.

This can be complicated because these symptoms may be related to something less serious, such as heartburn. You know your body best, though. If you feel like something is not right, you need to be evaluated by a doctor or even head to the emergency room.

 

  1. Discomfort in other areas of your body 

A heart attack doesn’t just affect your heart, you can actually feel the effects throughout your whole body. But this can make identifying a heart attack confusing.

You may experience pain or discomfort in your:

  • Arms (one or both of them)
  • Back
  • Neck
  • Jaw
  • Stomach

These symptoms can vary from person to person. For example, some people describe their back pain from a heart attack as feeling like a rope being tied around them.

You may also feel a heavy pressure on your back. Either way, if you think you’re experiencing any of these less obvious signs of a heart attack, don’t ignore them.

 

  1. Difficulty breathing and dizziness 

If you feel like you’ve just run a marathon, but you only walked up the stairs, that might be a sign your heart isn’t able to pump blood to the rest of your body. Shortness of breath can occur with or without chest pain, and it’s a common sign of a silent heart attack.

You may also feel dizzy or lightheaded — and it’s possible you could faint. Though this can happen to both men and women, it’s more common for women to experience shortness of breath.

If you’re having trouble with tasks that weren’t previously difficult make sure you get it checked out in case it’s a subtle sign of a heart attack.

 

  1. Nausea and cold sweats 

Waking up in a cold sweat, feeling nauseated, and vomiting may be symptoms of the flu, but they can also be signs of a silent heart attack.

You may know what the flu feels like because you’ve had it before, but when your gut is telling you that these flu-like symptoms are something more serious, LISTEN! Don’t chalk these symptoms up to the flu, stress, or simply feeling under the weather – they may be much more serious than that.

 


Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend that you ensure not only the Master has current First Aid, including CPR but also at least one other person onboard has it as well.

It’s no good if only the Master has First Aid, and they are the one to suffer a heart attack!


Tip

Our number one tip is to have an Automated External defibrillator (AED) onboard for use in the event someone onboard suffers a heart attack.

Fires on board any vessel can be the most dangerous types of incidents. A fire can trap those on board in cabins and confined spaces.

Burns: Do you know how to treat them?

Evacuating a burning vessel can leave crew stranded in the middle of the ocean. Fires on vessels can and too often are deadly. But for those who survive a fire there may be serious injuries, from smoke inhalation but also from burns.

Today, we are going to look at burns specifically!

A fire isn’t the only way someone may be burned on a vessel, although it is the most common. Here are some other ways:

  • Explosions
  • Electrical accidents
  • Hot surfaces (Thermal)
  • Welding tools
  • Friction
  • Cold
  • Radiation
  • Chemical

While prevention is key, sometimes accidents just happen. So, it’s important to be prepared and to know what to do.

Understanding burns

The first step is to assess the dimension of the burn to determine what approach should be taken. All burns are assessed according to the AREA and DEPTH involved.

The greater the area of tissue burn, the greater the chance of the patient to suffer shock due to loss of tissue fluid (plasma) and develop infection later on.

As a general rule, if the burned area is bigger than 8 cm in diameter or affects the face, eyes, genitalia or goes around a joint it is considered a major burn.

The DEPTH of a burn is assessed as being SUPERFICIAL (involving the outer layers of the skin) or DEEP (all areas of the skin are affected).

So, based on the area and depth of a burn we can classify it in Major or Minor Burns:

Major Burns (3rd and 4th degree burns)

These are deep, involving all layers of the skin. They are larger than a 20 cent coin in diameter or involve hands, feet, face, genitalia or a major joint. The skin may appear charred or have brown, black or white patches.

They are a medical emergency and require immediate medical assistance, so you need to dial 000 and ask for Ambulance immediately.

Burns: Do you know how to treat them?

If the accidents involves a person’s clothing has caught on fire, direct them to stop, drop and roll as this is the best way to extinguish fire, before you can help them.

Until the medical help arrives, here are the steps you can take to assist the burned person:

  1. Remove the person from further damage. In the case of electric shock, ALWAYS switch off the power source first
  2. Make sure the person in breathing
  3. If possible, remove constricting rings, belts, etc as swelling will occur quickly
  4. Cover the burn with gauze or non-adhesive dressing
  5. Elevate the burned area if possible
  6. Monitor the person for signs of shock (like fainting or dizziness, pale skin, weak pulse, shallow breathing, etc)

Minor Burns (1st and 2nd degree burns)

These affect the outer layers of the skin in a small area. The skin may be red and painful, and there can be mild swelling.

Although they are not as serious as higher-degree burns, they can hurt quite a bit and can leave a scar if not properly treated. To treat a minor or first-degree burns at home, follow these steps:

  1. Remove tight items, jewellery or clothes from the burned area, unless they are stuck to the burn
  2. Place the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes. This is the Golden First Aid Tip for Minor Burns.
  3. Do not use ice
  4. Do not break blisters
  5. Do not apply ointment, creams or oil to the burned area as they may cause infections
  6. Apply a proper burn aid product like an hydrogel. Burnaid 25g tube of hydrogel (firstaidkitsaustralia.com.au)
  7. Cover the burn loosely with a bandage. Bandaging keeps air off the area, reduces pain and protects blistered skin.

Part of being prepared for an emergency is to have the right items to address it. Not only do you need to ensure you have a First Aid Kit that is suitable for your vessel, ensuring your crew and you know how to administer and deal with First Aid should be a priority.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office to discuss.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Primary recommendation is to check your First Aid Kit today. Make sure your medical supplies are in accordance with the appropriate scale relative to your operations.

Secondly ensure all items are in date by checking the expiry dates.

Tip

Do you know that you are required to have a Medical Log onboard?

Shorlink has a Medical Stores Log and has recently developed a new Medical Log which records dispensing of all medical supplies to enable tracking.

It also ensures medical supplies are always kept up to date.  Click Here to order today with free postage. Note our new Medical Log will be available shortly.

All too often we hear “we live in the tropics, so hypothermia is not an issue for us!”

The simple fact is that it still is a problem and it’s even worse because many people continue to believe that in tropical or even warm climates hypothermia is not a problem if you’re in the water.

In simple terms if the water you’re in or even air that has a lower temperature than your body you can suffer from hypothermia.

Consider your body temperature in normal conditions is around 37°C and you go overboard in water with a temperature of 23°C which is common in warmer climate zones. 

Your body will immediately start to adjust to the external (water or air) temperature which means it’s going to drop significantly and…in a short time!

If you’re in the water for even a short time then hypothermia is going to start developing.

Knowing how to identify the symptoms of hypothermia is a vital part of survival at sea and in the preservation of life.

Body reactions

In water with a temperature of 21°C to 26°C the expected time before exhaustion or unconsciousness is between 3 to 12 hours depending on the individual. The expected time of survival is anywhere from 3 hours to indefinite.

Hypothermia Symptoms

We break up the symptoms into two categories…

  1. Mild hypothermia; and
  2. Moderate to severe hypothermia

Mild Hypothermia Symptoms

Symptoms for mild hypothermia include:

  • Shivering
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger
  • Nausea
  • Faster breathing
  • Trouble speaking
  • Slight confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Increased heart rate

Moderate to Severe Hypothermia Symptoms

These symptoms are signs of moderate to severe hypothermia:

  • Shivering, although as hypothermia worsens shivering stops
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech or mumbling
  • Confusion and poor decision making such as trying to remove warm clothes
  • Drowsiness or very low energy
  • Lack of concern about one’s condition
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Hypothermia in children

Charter and passenger vessels often have children onboard and anyone operating on these vessels should also be able to identify hypothermia in children. The symptoms include:

  • Bright red, cold skin
  • Very low energy
  • A weak cry

Treatment

Seek immediate medical attention for anyone who appears to have hypothermia. Until medical help is available, follow these first-aid guidelines for hypothermia.

First-aid tips

  • Be gentle. When you’re helping a person with hypothermia, handle him or her gently. Limit movements to only those that are necessary. Don’t massage or rub the person. Excessive, vigorous or jarring movements may trigger cardiac arrest.
  • Move the person out of the cold. Move the person to a warm, dry location if possible. If you’re unable to move the person out of the cold, shield him or her from the cold and wind as much as possible. Keep him or her in a horizontal position if possible.
  • Remove wet clothing. If the person is wearing wet clothing, remove it. Cut away clothing if necessary to avoid excessive movement.
  • Cover the person with blankets. Use layers of dry blankets or coats to warm the person. Cover the person’s head, leaving only the face exposed.
  • Insulate the person’s body from the cold ground. If you’re outside, lay the person on his or her back on a blanket or other warm surface.
  • Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may appear unconscious, with no apparent signs of a pulse or breathing. If the person’s breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low or shallow, begin CPR immediately if you’re trained.
  • Provide warm beverages. If the affected person is alert and able to swallow, provide a warm, sweet, non-alcoholic, noncaffeinated beverage to help warm the body.
  • Use warm, dry compresses. Use a first-aid warm compress (a plastic fluid-filled bag that warms up when squeezed) or a makeshift compress of warm water in a plastic bottle or a dryer-warmed towel. Apply a compress only to the neck, chest wall or groin.

Don’t apply a warm compress to the arms or legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.

  • Don’t apply direct heat. Don’t use hot water, a heating pad or a heating lamp to warm the person. The extreme heat can damage the skin or, even worse, cause irregular heartbeats so severe that they can cause the heart to stop.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you don’t know the signs of hypothermia developing you may be witnessing death in the making because hypothermia can kill in 6 minutes!

Our recommendation is to not only know but also understand the signs of hypothermia and how to deal with anyone suffering from it.

Remember hypothermia increases blood to the brain and alters your judgement so…be on guard at all times.

Tip

Hypothermia is not limited to being in the water, it can be an issue for those working in cold climates on deck or ashore. It can even impact people in freezer rooms if not wearing the appropriate PPE!

Our best tip is to ensure you wear the right clothing and have the appropriate PPE for the conditions you are working in!

This issue is dedicated to surviving in-water without a life raft.

While all commercially certified crew members have been through the Shipboard Safety Skillset, previously Elements of Shipboard Safety (ESS) course recreational operators have not.

 

Having to survive in the water after your vessels sinks or through a person overboard situation can be a terrifying ordeal and one that I hope you or your crew don’t have to go through!

The question is…

…if you found yourself in that situation could you survive?

The sad fact is that most people don’t really consider it until it’s too late. On commercial vessels it’s a requirement to undertake drills to ensure all crew have the knowledge and skills to deal with emergency situations.

But do you take into account how to survive if you found yourself in the water with other people around you or what if your alone?

Over the last few months, we’ve been delivering onboard safety training to commercial crews around Australia, and what stood out was a serious lack of knowledge and/or complacency about emergency situations.

The all too common attitude of “it won’t happen to me” was highlighted yet again.

While it’s a situation that we all hope does not happen, the simple fact is that every time you put to sea there is a possibility you may find yourself in the water waiting to be rescued.

Taking that into consideration let’s look at some in-water survival techniques.

Here’s a few points to consider first…

  1. Does anyone know you’re in the water?
  2. Are you alone or are there others?
  3. Are you injured or is anyone with you injured?
  4. Do you have a lifejacket on?
  5. Is there an inflatable life raft?
  6. Where are you?
  7. What are you wearing?
  8. What are the conditions?

These are some of the major factors influencing if you survive. If nobody knows you’re in the water then that’s a major problem to start with.

Injuries represent another issue depending on the nature of the injury while not having a lifejacket on puts you in a serious survival situation.

Where you are, what you’re wearing, and the prevailing conditions all represent major problems in surviving!

If you’re 50nm offshore and find yourself in the water with no lifejacket or anything else to support you in the water and nobody knows then you’re in a heap of trouble. Survival in this situation is not impossible but to be honest chances diminish by the hour.

Hypothermia is a major issue no matter where you are. During our training sessions too many crew members thought that hypothermia didn’t happen in the tropics. Simple fact is that is does!

First things first

The very first thing you need to do is ensure everybody is accounted for then check for injuries. Once you’ve dealt with the injuries the next step is critical to everyone’s survival because it’s one of the biggest dangers you’ll face.

Panic is the one thing that’s hard to control because suddenly finding yourself in the water miles from anywhere and floating in the water is a traumatic experience.

It’s critical for all that you get everyone calmed down, easy to say: not so easy to do but it’s a major step to surviving.

On most commercial vessels EPIRBs are now “Float Free” but for those that are not fitted with float free EPIRBS and for recreational vessels ensure you activate it as soon as possible.

Survival Strategies

HUDDLE

If there’s more than one person then you use the HUDDLE technique. This is where you all huddle together in a group to reduce the heat loss of all persons. 

Wearing a lifejacket of PFD allows you to draw your knees to your chest and your arms to your sides. Huddling with other people in the water lessens the loss of body heat and is good for morale.

By huddling together, you make it easier for rescuers to see you in the water. A group huddling together with lifejackets on is much easier to spot than you alone.

 

HELP

If you’re alone in the water you need to use the HELP which stands for Heat Escape Lessing Posture to minimise the amount of heat loss from your body.

 

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Here’s a couple of recommendations that can enhance your chances of survival!

  • Ensure all life jackets are in good condition; and 
  • They are stowed in an easy to access location; and
  • Ensure everyone onboard knows how to don their life jacket correctly

Additionally, it is good to ensure you conduct regular training that includes in-water survival.

Tip

If you’re working in rough weather or undertaking a solo voyage then we strongly recommend wearing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that’s GPS activated. This greatly increase the potential for a quick rescue.

The issue and impact of plastics in our oceans, people, plants, animals and entire ecosystems was front and centre at the recent United Nations Ocean Conference in Portugal.

Plastics in our Oceans. What are the impacts on the industry?

Through the UN Environment Assembly, more than 500 organisations and 21 additional governments, including Australia, have signed up to commitments to change how plastic is produced, used and reused to keep it out of the environment.

The FRDC funded research looking into plastic issue across Australian waters.  The project found that seafood species in Australia consume microplastics at low levels in comparison to elsewhere in the world.  However, the issue remains despite being low.

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders at the University of Adelaide is now working on a related project focussed on the potential effects and implications of plastic in seafood and its impacts for fishing and aquaculture.  This research will be presented at Human Health Symposium being held in September.

From 2021, seven out of eight Australia States and territories have committed to ban single-use plastics which are being rolled out in Stages.  Australia’s National Packaging Targets set a goal to phase out problematic single-use plastics by 2025.

This will have an affect on your vessel, whether recreational or commercial – this can and should affect your time on the water.

Discarding Fishing Nets!

Approximately 46% of the 79 thousand tons of ocean plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of fishing nets, some as large as football fields.

Fishing nets lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea – also known as “ghost nets” – can continue killing indiscriminately for decades and decades, entangling or suffocating countless fish, sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, seals and marine birds every year. An estimated 30% percent of the decline in some fish populations is a result of discarded fishing equipment, while more than 70% of marine animal entanglements involve abandoned plastic fishing nets.

This is crazy! As the marine industry is now seeing the light at the end of the the COVID tunnel, we need to make sure that every person that is on the water is being responsible for what is ‘in’ the water.

The Ocean is your backyard, you need to keep it clean and maintained!

For our recreational clients, please take your catch home and dispose of the waste with your household rubbish.

Dispose of marine litter such as bait packaging, unwanted fishing line and plastic bags responsibly to reduce impacts on marine mammals and seabirds.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

From a business sense, if your company is producing any single use plastic onboard, now is the time you need to be looking at alternatives.

You will need to consider all options to reduce the use of single-use and non-compostable and non-biodegradable plastics as this may important to retaining and enhancing the sustainability credentials of a business.

While options to ‘green’ a business’ around single-use plastics can present a great business opportunity, eventually, as the focus on our industry is for a more sustainable future, this will also likely become essential to ensuring legal compliance and, accordingly, may become an issue of fundamental importance to business survival.

Tip

Make the most of the disposal facilities at boat ramps and marinas to reduce plastic pollution associated with marine industry.

Review your current use of single-use plastics both onboard, in warehouses, office etc and seek alternatives where required as a matter of importance.

Every crew member is aware of the legalities around ‘throwing things overboard’.  Under no circumstances should fishing lines/nets be discarded overboard.

While most of us hope we never have to deal with an emergency situation at sea or in our shore-based business the fact is we can find ourselves in an emergency situation which requires swift action at any moment.

Dealing with emergency situations. Would you know what to do?

Even though we don’t think about it the simple fact is we face the potential of a fire onboard our vessel or in our office or factory every day. It’s not only fires there are so many other emergency situations that can occur both at sea and ashore.

Potential emergencies at sea

A short list of emergencies that can occur at sea which includes but is not limited to:

  • Fire
  • Person overboard
  • Injuries both minor, serious and critical
  • Collision
  • Grounding
  • Flooding (taking on water)
  • Adverse weather

Potential emergencies onshore

A short list of emergencies that can occur onshore which includes but is not limited to:

  • Fire
  • Injuries both minor, serious and critical
  • Forklift accidents
  • Vehicle accidents/collisions
  • Collisions between vehicles and people
  • Flooding by natural causes or plumbing failures
  • Bomb/terrorist threats
  • Working at heights
  • Working in confined spaces

Both of these lists are to highlight potentially what can happen at sea and in shore-based facilities and start you thinking about how you would deal with them.

For vessels it starts with having a Safety Management System (SMS) that complies with either Marine Order 504 or the ISM Code. The SMS must have documented procedures for dealing with onboard emergencies.

Shore-based facilities the starting point is having an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) that preferably complies with ISO 45001. This manual must have documented procedures for dealing with workplace emergencies.

The emergency procedures for both of these should include procedures for all potential emergencies identified which is the first step to being “emergency prepared”.

The second step is to ensure all vessel crew and shore-based workers are inducted into each procedure relevant to their allocated duties.

Following on from that all crew and workers must be trained in emergency procedures that apply to them. Training should include initial and ongoing training to ensure they can deal with emergency situations in a safe and efficient manner.

Note that all crew &/or workers are not necessarily responsible for all emergency procedures as they may not be involved in some tasks or areas where the potential dangers exist.

From a vessel or business owners’ perspective they must ensure all of the above are in place and undertaken to ensure your vessel or business has the best chance of surviving emergency situations.

While we understand that all of this is a lot of work how much work do you think it takes to deal with the loss of a vessel or business facility or worse still the serious injury or death of crew members or workers?

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Number one recommendation is to ensure you have a compliant SMS for commercial vessels &/or a OHSMS for business owners.

Actually, this is not just a recommendation it’s law!

Tip

The best tip we can give you is once you have your SMS or OHSMS in place is to ensure you induct and train all crew members &/or shore-based workers in emergency procedures.

Failure to do this puts you, your vessel or business and the lives of those who work for you in serious danger!

Is it worth the risk?