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.

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!


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!

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.

Are you required or do you have an inflatable life raft onboard and is it installed correctly?


Unfortunately, what we often see when doing onboard training or vessel safety audits is some of the following:

  • The wrong cradle is used for the make and/or model raft
  • Tied down to the vessel so as they cannot float free or be easily deployed
  • No Stenhouse clip or other quick release mechanism attached
  • The use of twine or light line to secure the hydrostatic release with no knife to cut it
  • The painter tied to the vessel not the weak link

All of the above are serious issues when trying to deploy your life raft or worse still if the painter is tied to the vessel and the vessel sinks say goodbye to your life raft. in this situation your chances of survival are greatly reduced.

When installing your life raft ensure the following points are observed:

  • you are using the right cradle for your life raft 
  • the raft sits properly in the cradle
  • the securing strap/line is in good condition
  • there is a Stenhouse life raft pelican slip hook or similar quick release mechanism attached to the securing strap/line
  • the hydrostatic release is secured to the cradle or vessel appropriately (a shackle is best)
  • the Stenhouse life raft pelican slip hook or similar quick release mechanism is secured to the hydrostatic release appropriately. Usually the yellow “U” thimble on the top of the hydrostatic release. 
  • the painter is secured to the “weak link” on the hydrostatic release. This is usually the brown component under the hydrostatic release


By ensuring all of the above is completed properly when installing your life raft you and all other persons onboard have the best chance survival as the life raft will:

  • automatically deploy when the vessel sinks; or
  • allows you to quickly and easily manually deploy the raft

Also avoid tying the life raft painter to the vessel even if you think you have lots of time before the vessel sinks. By tying the raft to the vessel, you risk losing it if the vessel suddenly sinks!

The other question we often get asked is “what depth does the hydrostatic release activate?”

A hydrostatic release (HRU) is a pressure activated mechanism designed to automatically deploy a life raft under certain pressure. If your vessel sinks the HRU will activate and release your raft at a depth of between 1.5 and 4 metres.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our number one recommendation is to ensure you have a procedure in place for the manual launching of your life raft in your SMS.

Secondly make sure you check your life raft to ensure it is installed correctly because in the event of taking on water and sinking you put the lives of all those onboard in danger.


If you use VB cord or light line to secure your hydrostatic release instead of using a Stenhouse life raft pelican slip hook or similar quick release mechanism you must have a sharp knife easily accessible to cut it. 

Best tip is to either tap a knife to the raft or secure it using VB cord. Either way it must be easily accessible to those who are tasked with deploying the raft. 

Having the right medical stores in your workplace can and has saved lives. This is why SafeWork have developed a Code of Practice for First aid in the workplace..

Medical Stores in the Workplace Do you know your requirements?

Who has health and safety duties in relation to first aid?

Duty holders who have a role in first aid include:

  • persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs)
  • designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers of plant, substances or structures, and
  • officers

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)

A PCBU must ensure:

  • provision of first aid equipment
  • each worker at the workplace has access to the equipment
  • access to facilities for administering first air; and
  • an adequate number of workers are trained to administer first aid, or workers have access to an adequate number of people who have been trained to administer first aid

A PCBU may net need to provide first aid equipment or facilities if these are already provided by another duty holder at the workplace and they are adequate and easily accessible at the times the workers carry out work.

What is required in providing first aid?

First aid requirements will vary from one workplace to the next depending on the nature of the work, the types of hazards, the workplace size and location as well as the number of people at the workplace. These factors must be taken into account when deciding what first aid arrangements are provided.

How to determine first aid requirements for your workplace.

Certain work environments have greater risks of injury and illness due to the nature of work being carried out and the nature of the hazards in the workplace.

The table below identifies injuries associated with common workplace hazards that may require first aid.

Hazard Potential harm
Manual tasks Overexertion can cause muscular strain
Working at heights or on uneven or slippery surfaces Slips, trips and falls can cause fractures, bruises, lacerations, dislocations, concussion
Electricity Potential ignition source – could cause injuries from fire. Exposure to live electrical wires can cause shock, burns or cardiac arrest
Machinery and equipment Being hit by moving vehicles or being caught by moving parts of machinery can cause fractures, amputation, bruises, lacerations, dislocations
Hazardous chemicals Toxic or corrosive chemicals may be inhaled or may contact skin or eyes causing poisoning, chemical burns, irritation.

Flammable chemicals could result in injuries from fire or explosion.

Extreme temperatures Hot surfaces and materials can cause burns

Working in extreme heat can cause heat-related illness. It can also increase the risks by reducing concentration and increasing fatigue and chemical uptake into the body.

Exposure to extreme cold can cause hypothermia and frostbite.

Radiation Welding arc flashes, ionising radiation and lasers can cause burns.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can cause skin cancers and eye damage.

Violence Behaviours including intimidation and physical assault can cause both physical and psychological injuries
Biological Infection, allergic reactions
Animals Bites, stings, kicks, crush injuries, scratches

Records of injuries, illnesses, “near miss” incidents and other information will be useful when making decisions about first aid requirements.

You should take into account:

  • the distance between work areas; and
  • the response times for emergency services

A large workplace may require first aid to be available in more than one location if:

  • work is being carried out a long distance from emergency services
  • workers are dispersed over a wide area
  • access to a party of the workplace is difficult; or
  • the workplace has more than one floor level.

There are other factors to consider but go beyond the scope of this newsletter. For further information please contact our office.

First aid kits

All workers must be able to access a first aid kit. This requires at least one first aid kit to be provided at the workplace.


The first aid kit should provide basic equipment for administering first aid for injuries including:

  • cuts, scratches, punctures, grazes and splinters
  • muscular sprains and strains
  • minor burns
  • amputations and/or major bleeding wounds
  • broken bones
  • eye injuries, and

The contents of your first aid kit should be based on a risk assessment which may identify higher risk levels for certain operations.


In the event of a serious injury or illness quick access to the first aid kit is vital. First aid kits should be kept in a prominent, accessible location where they can be retrieved quickly.

Restocking and maintaining kits

A person in the workplace, usually a first aider should be nominated to maintain the first aid kit and should:

  • monitor the usage of first aid kit and ensure items used are replaced as soon as possible after use
  • carry out regular checks after each use or if the kit is not used at least once every 12 months to ensure the kit contains a complete set of the required items. An inventory list in the kit should be signed and dated after each check; and
  • ensure items are in working order, have not deteriorated are within their expiry dates and sterile products are sealed and have not been tampered with.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Number one recommendation to check your first aid kit…you do have one don’t you? The best recommendation we can give is that if you’re unsure about what you need go to a first aid supplier who can then advise you about your requirements.

They can then either upgrade your existing kit or provide you with one that meets your specific requirements.


If you need further information on workplace medical requirements please feel free to contact our office or if you would like an example of contents for first aid kits in the workplace please contact our office

A common mistake we often see when reviewing or auditing SMS manual is the grouping of procedures, in particular emergency procedures.

The most common one we see is the grouping together of collision and grounding which sometimes often includes flooding! Let’s look at them individually.


Collisions are when a vessel comes into contact with:

  • Another vessel
  • Navigational aids including beacons, poles and markers
  • A wharf, pontoon or other structure
  • An oyster lease or other aquaculture facility
  • A marine creature such a whale, etc.

Collision V Grounding DO you know the difference?

A collision can best be described as hitting or colliding with a solid object such as another vessel, navigational aid, infrastructure or a marine creature!

Collisions, in the most part are avoidable by ensuring a proper lookout is maintained at all times when underway and at anchor!

Underway means when not secured to a marina or pole berth, mooring or at anchor. You are underway even if you not secured to any of the items above and do not have your motor running!


A grounding can be described as a vessel coming into contact with:

  • the mainland
  • an island
  • coral reef
  • sand or mud bank.

Collision V Grounding

A grounding can be described as running into a land mass, reef or sand or mud bank!

Groundings as with collisions are avoidable when a proper lookout is maintained in conjunction with good navigational practice.

Good navigational practice means either local knowledge or consulting the chart for the area where you are operating.

By consulting the chart, you will be able to identify all areas where potential grounding may occur and avoid the embarrassment of being left high and dry.

So now I hope you can differentiate between a collision and a grounding and realise that there a two separate procedures required.

The other interesting thing is we often see flooding grouped with collision and grounding. While flooding can occur in either of these  incidents it is again a separate procedure and should not be grouped together with other procedures.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We recommend you check your SMS to ensure that collision and grounding (and flooding) are not grouped together in one procedure. If they are you need to separate them and develop individual collision and grounding procedures.


When developing a grounding procedure, we recommend you take into account the seabed structures in your areas of operations and reference how you re-float your vessel.

Ensure you are familiar with the areas you operate in including local sea life, navigational aids, infrastructure, land masses, reefs and shallow water areas.

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!

While storing chemicals (either onboard or in a workplace) may seem like a minor issue, the reality is it can lead to catastrophic outcomes!

There are specific requirements in relation to handling and storing chemicals. Many chemicals are fine to be stored next to each other, but some are not.

Some chemicals when stored together have the potential to present major hazards including explosion, fire, corrosive actions, etc.

Handling some chemicals can present potential health hazards ranging from minor skin irritations to sever buns, respiratory problems and many other health hazards.

In the workplace it’s easy to have a n approved flammable liquid storage cabinet but onboard vessels (depending on the vessels size) can be difficult. No matter whether onshore or onboard it’s important to identify flammable liquids correctly using a sign like below.

Other chemicals have labels specific to the potential hazard they present, e.g., Corrosive, Oxidizing, etc.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) (previously called Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

All chemicals used in the workplace (ashore or onboard) must have a SDS available for all crew and/or workers. The only exception is for domestic products bought of the shelf which are usually in small containers only, not 5 – 25 litres.

The SDS provides all the handling, storage, medical advice, PPE and potential hazards about the product in detail.

Handling chemicals

No matter what the chemical is, whether its and cleaning liquid, de greaser, fuel, etc. always check the SDS for any specific handling information. Identify what, if any PPE is required and do not at any time just go ahead and use chemicals that you are not familiar with or been instructed in their use.

Storing chemicals

Back too the SDS to check the storage requirements of each chemical and to identify if there are any specific requirements relative to that product.

Note that some chemicals can not be stored in close proximity to other specific chemical. Always check that you are not storing any “non-compatible” chemicals together.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

The key recommendation for any hazardous chemicals and/or materials is to read the SDS and at a minimum check:

  • Hazardous identification
  • Potential health effects
  • First Aid Measures
  • Fire Fighting Measures
  • Handling and Storage
  • Toxicological information

By at least checking and following the above information you’ll eliminate potential hazards to yourself, others and the environment.


The best tip today is to identify what PPE is required and follow those recommendations to eliminate or at least minimise the risk of health hazards to yourself and others.

Don’t just think I’m only using this chemical for a couple of minutes, what’s the harm? The harm is that with some chemicals the potential for health related issues is immediate or close to it!

On the 4th October 2018 at around 10.41am a young man died due to a sea snake bite while working on prawn trawler in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

At  8.20am the young man  was ensuring the nets were folding correctly into the sorting tray when the Master observed him shake his hand as if in pain. The victim said he had been bitten on the finger by a snake.

The Master observed what he believed was either a black banded or elegant sea snake which he removed from the net and through over the side. He then made a call to another vessel and then the Royal Flying Doctor at 8.23am.

From here on is the critical part in regard to any snake bite, but especially when in remote areas such as in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The Master told the victim to take a shower then go to the wheelhouse where his hand was soaked in a bowl of Dettol, iodine and water. His arm was then wrapped from the armpit to the wrist with a compression bandage.

Not the actual victim.

At 08.43 the Master called Careflight at which time the vessel was some 57 nautical miles from South Point, Groote Eylandt. During a conference call a plan was established to steam towards Alyangula, a town on Groot Eylandt which is a further 23 nautical miles past South Point where there is a health clinic.

At that point the vessel was only 38.40 nautical miles from Bing Bong, a port and loading facility for the McArthur River mine.

From there it all started to go down hill with the victim with signs of envenomation becoming evident. The Master made another call to Careflight to seek medical advice.

The victim said “Yeah I feel fine, no pain. At 09.55 the Master told the doctors that the victim remained well, but he did mention that he was closer to Bing Bong than Alyangula.

At 10.10 the Master was directed to turn around and steam to Bing Bong. At that point the vessel was 42.41 nautical miles from South Point and 48.15 nautical miles from Bing Bong.

At 10.18 AMSA contacted the RAAF to determine if a helicopter could be sent which the RAAF agreed to do and advised the ETA was 15.15.

By 10.28 the victim was in rapid deterioration. At 10.41 the victim became unresponsive and CPR was commenced and was maintained for the next 4 hours.

Alyangula Police sent a Police vessel with 2 clinic nurses to meet the vessel. At 11.26 a jet set off from Cairns with an estimated flying time of 2 hours to drop medical supplies to the vessel.

At 12.50 a fast catamaran set out from Bing Bong with a doctor and nurse onboard with sufficient equipment to intubate the victim. They boarded the vessel at 14.30. The victim could not be revived, and he was declared deceased at 14.28 hours.

A draft WorkSafe investigation report stated:

  • The vessels Masters Log contained no information and did not meet the requirement of the SMS;
  • There were no induction records or records of training and drills;
  • The hazard mitigations for marine animals were stated in the SMS to be PPE, on the job training and the policy on handling marine organisms. However, the PPE required was not specified and there was no policy on handling marine organisms.

Note that ALL sea snakes are venomous, and all bites should be treated as a medical emergency!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you operate a trawler or any other vessel where you encounter sea snakes review (or develop) a procedure for handling them which includes the use of snake grabbers or hooks and include a snake bite kit in your first aid supplies.


When buying bandages for snake bites make sure you purchase specifically made snake bite compression bandages with indicator. It’s critical you get the right compression to reduce lymphatic flow which is where the venom is.

WorkSafe recently issued a safety alert about the risks associated with hot works, after a fire was started. The fire started while bolts were being cut with an oxy-acetylene torch during maintenance activities.

Hot work is any work that has the potential to ignite nearby combustible, flammable or explosive material.

Common hot work tasks include welding, cutting, grinding and heat treatment, and hot work processes can create hazards such as:


  • Fire: caused by heat, molten metal, sparks or direct contact with cutting or welding flames.
  • Explosions: caused by the presence of gas, liquid vapours or suspended flammable dust.
  • Toxic fumes: generated directly from the hot work process or through heat decomposition of nearby material(s).

These hazards create a serious risk to workers health and safety that can lead to injury, illness and death.

For example, burns from heat radiation or contact with flames, sparks, molten metal or hot surfaces, and exposure to hazardous fumes.

Hot work processes have the potential to ignite fires that can travel beyond site boundaries. Fires may also start well after the completion of any hot work activities due to residual heat.

The Australian Standard AS/NZS 1674.1:1997 – Safety in welding and allied processes Part 1: Fire Precautions may be of benefit when identifying and controlling risks.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

I recommend a number of control measures be put in place when undertaking hot works:

  • Identify any potentially flammable or combustible materials in the area, such as rubbish, dust, oils, grease, rubber, plastics, or other substances that could be potential fuel sources or generate dust explosions.
  • Remove any flammable or combustible material in the area. If materials cannot be removed use flameproof covers or screens or wet the materials down before and during the work.
  • Ensure the area is adequately ventilated.
  • Assign a designated fire watch person to monitor the hot work environment.
  • Conduct post-work inspections for smouldering material prior to leaving the area. For example, before a break, at the end of a shift or at the completion of work.
  • Ensure adequate firefighting equipment is available and ready for use.
  • Identify and establish suitable exclusion zones for personnel and vehicles.
  • Ensure workers are wearing appropriate non-flammable personal protective equipment.
  • Establish and train all personnel on emergency and evacuation procedures.


My number one tip is to develop a procedure for hot works which covers off on what hot work includes and what precautions are to be required when undertaking hot works.

I would also include a list of high-risk areas such as confined or enclosed spaces.