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.


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.


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!

Whilst it is worth initially noting that whilst every vessel is different and built with different materials, maintenance is an extremely important part of the running of your vessel.

While a critical safety factor, maintenance related issues do not always receive the attention they deserve. Maintenance issues are often difficult to detect and not generally linked to safety and therefore are not recorded.

The Importance of Maintenance

Maintenance ensures that a vessel, engine, etc. continues to perform its intended function as per its design in relation to the level of safety and reliability.

Examples of issues that could lead to technical failure include:

  • unsuitable modification to parts
  • omission of maintenance checks
  • incomplete installations
  • a fault not being isolated
  • missing equipment.

While many maintenance-related errors seem inconsequential, they have the potential to remain dormant and can affect the safe operation of a vessel over time.

How often do I need to complete maintenance checks?

Programmed maintenance of vessel and its equipment should be undertaken in accordance with the schedules specified in your SMS Manual. To ensure the safety and efficiency, inspections should be carried out prior to departure and at monthly and annually intervals at a minimum.

Where lapses have occurred in undertaking repairs and/or maintenance these are to be recorded in either the SMS or the Maintenance Log. The owner or Master is responsible for corrective actions to be undertaken within the timeframe specified in the vessels SMS.

Consideration may be given to the severity, nature and potential impact of any repairs or defects in relation to the corrective action required. Where there is no potential impact on the safety of the vessel, persons onboard, other vessels and the environment – the time required may be extended accordingly. Any extension in times should be recorded in the vessels Log Book.

The Master is responsible for ensuring all machinery, equipment and other technical and electronic equipment is maintained and serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions at all times.

The maintaining of all inspection records is the either the Master or the Engineer if caried.

When and Where do I need to inspect?


These checks are to be in accordance with the vessels pre-departure check list.


 The following areas/items should be inspected at a minimum every month:

  • Hull, Deck & Superstructure
  • Machiney, Fuel and Steering Systems
  • Fire & Safety Equipment
  • Miscellaneous – such as anchors, chain, line, winch and signage etc


 The following areas/items should be inspected at least once a year:

  • Hull, Deck & Superstructure – External
  • Hull, Deck & Superstructure – Internal
  • General Arrangements including Internal structures, stairs and air dampeners
  • Anchors, Chain and Equipment
  • Machinery, Steering and Fuel Systems
  • Electrical Systems
  • Navigation Equipment
  • Safety Equipment
  • Fire systems and Equipment

Identifying, addressing and managing maintenance-related risks is an important part of your Safety Management System (SMS). The SMS must include a planned maintenance schedule as well as a pre-departure checklist. Planned maintenance should include regular checks, servicing, visual inspections and operational tests.

Recording maintenance

Equipment failures and vessel breakdowns can cause accidents, putting everyone on board in danger.

It is important to keep proper records of what maintenance has been done. This allows you to track when you are due for maintenance and helps prove you are proactive about the safety of your operation.

Another common question we’re getting is do I have to record all my maintenance? The answer is YES you need to record all your maintenance, both scheduled and non-scheduled.

Scheduled maintenance includes everything from oil changes to annual refits and everything in between.

Unscheduled maintenance is things like when you have to repair engines, gearboxes, refrigeration or anything else due to a breakdown or hull repairs to an incident, etc.

All of these things must be recorded in an appropriate manner. You can use a Maintenance Log Book like ours below or maintenance record forms in your SMS, in an electronic maintenance program or even in an Excel spreadsheet but…it must be recorded.

We have a number of clients using specially designed maintenance software programs while others are using either our Maintenance Log Books or ones they’ve developed.

The other question is do we have to keep the records onboard? Simple answer, NO. Again, a number of our clients use our Maintenance Log Book and keep it ashore as they have shore-based maintenance personnel.

Many of our smaller clients use the maintenance form we have in our SMS Manuals and store them in their SMS.

Others use our maintenance form and store them in the cloud enabling maintenance to be recorded and having it accessible to onboard crew and shore-based staff and/or owners.

No matter which method you choose it’s no use unless you ensure all maintenance is recorded when it’s done not a month later.

My crews would often say I was too annal in recording maintenance as I insisted in everything being recorded down to changing light globes which may sound a bit extreme.

The benefit of that was upon return from a trip they had changed light globes in one cabin 6 times during that trip. This indicated an electrical fault which had the potential to cause a fire!

You don’t have to go to that extreme but must always ensure maintenance relevant to the operation and safety of the vessel are recorded. This demonstrates to AMSA that you run a professional operation!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

First recommendation is to ensure you have a method of recording maintenance that suits your requirements, and all maintenance is recorded.

Second is to ensure your SMS has a maintenance schedule or program that outlines what you inspect and/or service and at what intervals, e.g., monthly, annually, etc.

For most of our clients we develop monthly and annual schedules while a few have monthly and biannual programmes in place. The bottom line is the schedule must suit your operations.

In our Maintenance Log Books and forms we include a column for the person undertaking the maintenance to sign of on it.


Our best tip is to record all maintenance, no matter how big or small it is. We recommend recording everything from the replacement of fuses and light globes to major component items such as engines, gearboxes, etc.

This provides a chronological account of all maintenance which gives you a detailed look at how the vessel is running and identifies any areas that may require special attention.

Click Here to view the Maintenance Log Book.  If you wish, you can order with free postage.

This is a very important question because over the last 12 months we’ve undertaken several Safety Audits both on vessels and in workplaces ashore and conducted multiple onboard training sessions where fire safety was compromised.

How does your fire safety stack up?

Here’s a short list of things we’ve discovered during our Safety Audits and training sessions:

  • Empty fire extinguishers
  • Fire extinguishers not serviced
  • In one case the engine room fire suppression system bottle was empty
  • Air shut offs not functioning. Often these had been painted over during refit
  • Air shut offs with damaged dampeners
  • In another case an air shut off that had a bolt from a fitting located in the vent pipe which prevented the dampener from closing
  • Inoperable fuel shut offs
  • In one case a fuel shut off that had to be accessed through a hole in the deck with a fitting that could not be removed
  • Fire hydrants and/or hoses in disrepair
  • A lack of knowledge on how to deal with a fire, even a minor one!

All of the above put the vessels at risk in the event of a fire onboard, especially in the engine room.

While the above list is based on vessels, many of the items are also relevant to workplaces such as factories, offices, etc.

Fire extinguishers that have been discharged or otherwise become inoperable should never be onboard or in the workplace, they must be serviced when due.

Check the gauge on a regular basis and if it is in the RECHARGE section, get it recharged immediately!

Do you have Dry Chemical extinguishers on your vessel in your workplace?

If yes, ensure you know what class they are as there are two classes for Dry Chemical extinguishers, these are:

ABE Type :

  • Class A Fires – paper, cardboard, wood, fabrics, people etc.
  • Class B Fires – flammable liquid fires, petrol, diesel, oil etc
  • Class E Fires – electrical fires, computers, photocopiers, switchboards etc

 BE Type:

  • Class B Fires – flammable liquid fires, petrol, diesel, oil etc
  • Class E Fires – electrical fires, computers, photocopiers, switchboards etc

Air shut offs that do not fully operate put your vessel at risk. You need to check them for full operation regularly, especially after a refit where painting has been undertaken.

The picture below was supplied by AMSA as an example of a damaged air dampener.

Fuel Shut offs: The location and operation of your fuel shut offs is also critical for your safety in the event of an engine room fire. These should also be checked regularly for effective operation.

The picture below is an example of a cable operated fuel shut off.

Fire hydrants and fire hoses are fitted on many vessels, but we’ve found ‘lay flats” hoses that were in disrepair, one that even feel apart when pulled out!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

For your safety and the safety of your crew, workers and/or clients and vessel or premises ensure you have a procedure in place and that you undertake regular drills.

Secondly, make sure all crew and workers can identify the classes of extinguishers and their specific uses.

Also, it’s critical to your safety that you undertake regular checks of ALL your fire fighting apparatus and equipment to ensure it works when required.


Best tip for Dry Chemical extinguishers is to turn them upside down and give them a little shake on a regular basis.

The reason for this is that the powder compacts on the bottom of the extinguisher and may not work efficiently or work at all.

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!


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

It’s likely you’ve heard the term situational awareness but…do you know what it means?

Situational awareness can be defined simply as “knowing what is going on around us” or more technically as “the perception of the elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning and the projection of their status in the near future”.

Situational Awareness: Do you have it?

Situational awareness is a major component of watchkeeping, and a lack of situational awareness is a major contributor to marine incidents!

Marine incidents that include minor to critical injury and loss of life, minor damage to or loss of your vessel, minor to major damage to infrastructure and/or minor to major environmental damage.

Take note that situational awareness is not just for the Master or watchkeepers it’s something all crew members MUST have to ensure the safety of the vessel and all persons onboard.

In maritime terms the following are what all crew members need to know to have good situational awareness:

  • Being aware of your environment, including:
    • other boats in the area
    • navigational hazards
    • communications between vessel traffic services and other boats
    • weather
    • sea state
    • depth of water
    • tide and current
  • Knowing your boat’s configuration, equipment and systems including auto pilot, radar, GPS, AIS, compass, propulsion and their engaged modes.
  • Being aware of the status of your boat’s systems.
  • Know the geographical position of the boat within the operational location.
  • Managing time for things like fuel status
  • Allowing time for unplanned events or emergencies.

Put simply, situational awareness means having an accurate understanding of what is happening around you and what is likely to happen. Around you doesn’t mean what’s happening in front of you, it means a full 360 degrees around you!

Situational Awareness: Do you have it?

At all times you must:

  1. Perceive what is happening.
  2. Understand what is happening.
  3. Use this to think ahead.

While you’re working it can be easy to be distracted and lose your situational awareness. No matter if you’re the Master, Engineer, watchkeeper or deckhand you must always be aware of potential distractions and how they impact on your situational awareness.

Failing to maintain situational awareness puts you, your crew and vessel in danger, a danger that can end up in loss of life and//or vessel!

Situational Awareness: Do you have it?

Very few people have situational awareness naturally, it’s something you learn and develop over time but, you have to work on it.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our recommendation is to either email this newsletter to all your crew or print it out and provide a copy to your crew members. In either case have them work on improving their situational awareness.

We can guarantee that when all crew members have good situational awareness the potential for incidents decreases significantly!


Something we do when we’re onboard a vessel doing training or when it’s working and it’s a good thing for you to do as well and that is ask different crew members if they know what’s going on around them, questions such as:

  • Which way are we heading; e.g., compass bearing, into the wind, with the sea, etc.
  • What are other crew members doing; e.g., are they all on deck working, are they in their bunks, etc.
  • Are there lines left on the deck

Try asking questions like these to assess the level of situational awareness of individual crew members. If their level of awareness help them to improve it for everyone’s safety!

Firstly, what is restricted visibility?

Many people consider restricted visibility as fog or heavy rain but the hours between sunrise and sunset are all regarded as restricted visibility. Any condition or situation that restricts your ability to see clearly or hampers your vision is restricted visibility!

In fact, the hours leading up to daylight and sunset can make visibility exceedingly difficult depending on your course in relation to the rising or setting sun.

Operating in restricted visibility. And the dangers!

Most of us have had to operate in these sort of conditions at some time or another and hopefully survived without incident!

By following a simple procedure (you do have one don’t you?) you can make it safer not only for yourself but others as well.

Here’s a guide to good seamanship when operating in restricted visibility.

  1. Always proceed at a safe speed relative to the conditions
  2. Maintain a watch by sight, sound, including your radio and all other available means
  3. Where necessary use the appropriate sound signals (see Sound Signals below)
  4. If a close quarters situation exists you must take appropriate action to avoid a collision (collision means not only with another vessel but also navigational markers or beacons, etc.)
  5. At all times monitor the radio
  6. If other vessels are nearby broadcast your intended movements

Sound Signals

These sound signals are to be used when operating in restricted visibility.

  1. Underway:sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes apart 1 prolonged blast;
  2. Underway but stopped: sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes 2 prolonged blasts in succession with an interval of 2 seconds between them
  3. At anchor:ring the bell (if fitted) rapidly for about 5 seconds

When you’re operating in restricted visibility it’s vital that you follow this procedure to ensure the safety of your vessel, all persons onboard and other vessels!

It’s important that you comply with the regulations at all times and for this procedure you can go to the COLREGS Rule 9 – Conduct of vessels in restricted visibility.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend placing a lookout on the bow when operating in close proximity to other vessels, entering port where manoeuvrability may be restricted or where other potential dangers exist.

Operating from the wheelhouse where vision is impaired by fog, heavy rain, sunset, sunrise or any other condition can make navigating more difficult.

You may have your sight impacted by interior lights, lights from gauges and/or navigational equipment or other things all of which can cause significant issues. By using a forward lookout, you minimise the risks!


Remember that during periods of heavy rain or other conditions your radar may be impacted and not display potential dangers, especially other vessels. When operating in close proximity to other vessel ensure you maintain communications by using your radio.

This is such a simple action but unfortunately many collisions occur due to a failure to communicate!

Crossing a coastal bar can be an easy task or it can be one of the most dangerous parts of a voyage so by ensuring you have the knowledge and a sound procedure in place lessens the dangers!

Coastal Bar Crossings And their dangers!

Coastal bars build up at the entrance to costal rivers and are formed by the movement of sand and sediments. They cause waves to become steeper and often break as they approach the bar. Bars can change quickly and without warning making any crossing dangerous!

Any crossing of a coastal bar can be a dangerous event even when it appears calm. Bars can produce dangerous waves that have the potential cause injury or loss of life and severe damage to or loss of vessels.

All bars are different and remember that slow displacement vessels handle bars differently than high speed planning vessels do.

Going out

The vessel must match the energy of each incoming wave by maintaining a speed that will lift the bow over the wave and reduce the chance of the wave breaking over the bow into the vessel.

Do not hit waves at high speed but take them as close to head-on as possible. Be prepared to take a wave head-on and take water over the bow if there is no other way.

A guideline for you when crossing a bar:

  • cross on an incoming tide when possible
  • look for lulls and choose the line of least wave activity and avoid breaking waves or the calmest water
  • look for the deepest water to avoid grounding
  • keep your vessel head-on to approaching waves. Do not let your vessel turn side on to approaching waves
  • head up into the waves and accelerate where possible, but avoid getting airborne
  • head for the lowest part of the wave and continue until clear.

Coming in

When coming in, high-speed boats (capable of at least 18 knots) should travel at the same speed as the waves.

Slow displacement boats may have to come in very slowly to avoid surfing and getting caught side-on to a wave.

Try to travel in on the back of a wave and stay ahead of waves that break behind the boat. Watch for patterns and deeper areas.

When returning over a bar you should:

  • look for lulls and choose the route of least wave activity
  • look for the deepest water to avoid grounding
  • increase power to maintain speed within the set of waves when approaching from the sea
  • position the boat on the back of the wave – do not surf down the face of the wave
  • adjust the boat’s speed to match the speed of the waves, but do not try to overtake the waves.

In bad conditions, it can be safer to stand off in deeper water, or find another shelter, instead of re-crossing the bar.

For passenger vessels

If you’re operating a passenger vessel and carrying passengers when crossing a coastal bar, it’s critical that you notify all passengers that you are about to cross a bar.

In all but calm weather advise them to be seated and hold on until advised the bar crossing has been completed. When the bar crossing has been completed advise passengers that the bar crossing has been completed.

Never, at any time allow passenger on the bow area when crossing a coastal bar!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend that when crossing a bar everyone should wear a lifejacket as no matter the size of your vessel there is always the potential for capsize, especially on rough days! Remember putting a lifejacket on in the water is difficult but putting one in in rough seas is almost impossible!

Choose your route carefully and once you have started keep going as attempting to turn around in front of an incoming wave is dangerous.


Our vital tips for crossing coastal bars.

  • Check the tide and weather
  • Check your vessels steering
  • Check your vessels engine/s and controls
  • Ensure your vessels trim is appropriate
  • Secure all cargo, equipment and other items that may move around

Ensure all lines are secure and not likely to go overboard

Over recent years there have been too many deaths in both the commercial and recreational sectors due to overturned or capsized vessels.

Being trapped in an overturned vessel is no doubt an extremely traumatic experience for anyone! It’s an experience that so often ends up in death due to not knowing what to do.

Escape from an overturned vessel A brief guide to save your life!

Before we go into it let’s take a quick look at capsizes and their causes..

Causes of capsize

There are many causes for a vessel to capsize including rough seas and operator error. We cannot eliminate rough seas, but we can control the man mad issues in many instances.

A few of the man-made issues include:

  • Overloading: exceeding the approved weight/passenger limits
  • Distribution of weight: e.g., too much cargo or passengers to one side, the bow or stern
  • Weight carried to high: e.g., on the cabin top or upper decks
  • Unsecured cargo
  • Trawler hook-up
  • Sudden passenger movement to one side; and
  • Drugs and/or alcohol

This is a short list of potential hazards to take into account, but drugs and alcohol have been a factor in capsizes and many other incidents resulting in serious injuries and deaths!

What’s the primary cause of death?

While most people will say drowning which is true but there is a more sinister menace behind the scenes that plays a major factor in just about every case.

Panic can be classed as the most significant factor in just about all cases and…who can blame anyone for panicking?

Consider that you’re asleep in your bunk and suddenly you find yourself in an upside-down vessel with water and all sorts of things floating around you.

It’s dark, it’s wet, it’s confusing and…it is scary!

I run a session on escaping from overturned vessels which has been well received by both owners and operators. Below I’ll give a brief outline for your benefit.

Escape techniques

There is not enough space in this newsletter to go into details, but I’ll outline the basics for you.

When you realise the situation you’re in the immediate response is PANIC.

While it’s easy to say  but the fact is panic must be overcome or at least controlled to increase your chances of survival.

Let’s consider your vessel has capsized and you’re trapped in a cabin with a small air pocket, which is what happens in many cases.

Escape techniques

Here’s 10 key steps …

  1. first, take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down;
  2. remember where you are in the vessel;
  3. ensure you’re not entangled with anything, if so untangle yourself;
  4. picture the vessels layout in your mind and identify the best possible escape path. This will be relevant to the vessels operations and equipment carried onboard;
  5. remember that with the vessel being upside-down everything is reversed: e.g., if you normally turn left to exit when leaving your cabin, you’ll now need to turn right but…that may also be dependent upon the vessel layout and potential escape routes;
  6. you need to make the decision to escape or stay and wait! In most cases staying can end up in death due to a lack of oxygen. If you decide to escape then you need to take action quickly;
  7. map out you escape route clearly in your mind;
  8. then it’s time to go so fill your lings with air, close your eyes if you don’t have a mask or goggles (especially as there may be fuel, oil, etc. in the water) and proceed with your escape;
  9. use one hand to clear away debris and the other as a guide touching surfaces such as bulkheads, decks, etc.
  10. when outside the vessel, look for any form of buoyant appliance or item that can help keep you afloat. If the vessel remains afloat use it for support. If the vessel is sinking and not staying afloat move away using any form of buoyant appliance.

The above is only a guide and there are many other steps that can save your life but…

…there are many dangers involved that can impact on your escape as well!

A couple of important things to remember…

If you’re in a cabin of a capsized vessel the amount of oxygen available is limited and can be consumed quickly, especially if you’re panicking.

If you’re not already gasping for air the lack of oxygen won’t kill you, but carbon dioxide will! Remember that panicking and hyperventilating uses a lot more oxygen.

When you’re unable to breathe, carbon dioxide can’t leave your body, so it builds up in your bloodstream. It acidifies the blood and can kill you in just a few minutes.

The other thing to take into account is hypothermia which sets in when your body temperature falls below 35°C. Refer to our newsletters on hypothermia.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our number one recommendation is to ensure you remain aware of things that impact on stability and have the potential to capsize your vessel.

Never overload your vessel or place weight high up and ensure all cargo is secured so it doesn’t move around.

Finally keep alcohol and drugs out of the equation. Being impaired by alcohol and/or drugs is a recipe for disaster. Your decision making ability diminishes quicky when under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs so…stay alert and stay alive!


Capsizing usually happens very quickly and often without warning so our tip is to be prepared and have your crew trained in escaping if your vessel does capsize.

If you would like more information on this subject or to book a training session don’t hesitate to contact our office because…it’s your safety and the safety of your crew!

Working over the side of a vessel involves many risks and can be and has been the cause of serious injuries and loss of life.

When we say working over the side most people think of leaning over the side of the vessel being secured by a safety harness over the side for maintenance, repairs or even cleaning.

Unfortunately, many crew members don’t think of going out on the trawl booms as working over the side, but the fact is you are over the side of the vessel and often in an even more dangerous situation.

Over the years very little attention has been paid to this task but on many commercial vessels it’s a task that occurs regularly and often without safety precautions.

While working over the side while secured by a safety harness, has dangers you are relatively safe in comparison to being out at the end of a trawl boom!

It’s not just trawl booms, other vessels have booms for stabilisers and you can find yourself out on those at times as well due to a number of reasons.

The fact is that all booms represent a hazardous work area no matter what safety features are incorporated. Booms are designed to do a specific job often with little or no consideration of safety.

Booms are usually constructed out of metal tube or pipe which means they are round which presents a problem for walking on, especially in wet and/or rough conditions.

When out on the end of a trawler boom you have a number of hazardous items to contend with while undertaking any task.

Things like stay wires, trawl cables, boards and sleds and nets all present serious risks especially when trying to hang on and walking on a circular platform that is wet and often dipping into the water.

Some trawl booms have grab rails as a safety measure but while helpful you are still at risk when out on the boom so…what safety measures can you incorporate?

In all the Safety Management System manuals we develop for trawlers and other vessels with booms or arms we always include a procedure for working over the side and on trawl booms or arms.

In this procedure we specify the wearing of a Level 150 PFD for persons working over the side and on booms or arms.

Some operators include the wearing of a safety harness when working on booms which is attached to the vessel and while it may seem like a good idea it has inherent dangers.

These include the fact that if you fall off the boom you can end up being caught up in cables or stay wires, being dragged under or even crashed against the side of the vessel in rough weather.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our primary recommendation is to include a procedure for working over the side and on trawl booms which includes the mandatory wearing of a Level 150 PFD for all persons working over the side and especially when going out on trawl booms or arms.


While having Level 150 PFD’s available it’s critical that they are in good condition and in service. Most PFD’s need to be serviced annually so make sure yours are serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

As lifejackets are subject to harsh conditions including but not limited to exposure to the sun, salt water, weather conditions, etc. regularly check them for damage and either service them or replace them if necessary.

Remember, lifejackets only work if you are wearing them!