This is a safety reminder to business operators to review their contingency plans for the 2021-22 cyclone season.

Employers in control of workplaces in cyclone sensitive regions must have adequate plans in place and provide adequate training to protect workers in the event of a cyclone.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Australian Tropical Cyclone Outlook (link is external), the cyclone season runs from November to April.

Each year an average of three tropical cyclones occur in the Northern region and an average of four cyclones occur in the Eastern region.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology the Norther region has a 57% chance of more tropical cyclones this season while the Eastern region has a 66% chance of more tropical cyclones.

Cyclones can isolate workers by cutting off access to emergency services, roads, transport, power, infrastructure and communications.

Cyclonic weather conditions increase hazards to crew members and workers and may devastate commercial vessel operations and shore-based businesses!,

Commercial vessel and business operators must prepare response plans for the likely risks of cyclones.

Operators must also coordinate the plans for sites with multiple employers by appropriately training all workers.

“All crew members and employees must know exactly what actions to take in the event of a cyclone.”

Employers in control of workplaces should consider the following:

  • Develop emergency procedures and plans
  • Regularly review training and include the plan when providing on-site inductions.
  • Detail site-safe actions to be undertaken at all levels of cyclone warning phases. For example: remove or restrain loose objects or structures; have step-by-step plans for the safe evacuation of workers; and have clear communication protocols established for reaching all personnel on-site during all cyclone alert warning phases.
  • All transportable buildings on worksites in cyclone sensitive regions are to be adequately secured including accommodation units, dongas and offices.
  • Plan for a safe and orderly evacuation of non-essential personnel prior to worsening conditions e.g., during the blue and yellow cyclone warning phases.
  • All personnel remaining on-site during the cyclone should move to an appropriate designated shelter well in advance of the arrival of the cyclone.
  • Adequate food, drinking water, medical supplies and other essential items are to be available for all isolated workers.
  • During the red alert cyclone warning phase, a reliable emergency backup communication is to be available for contact with external emergency services.
  • Cyclone warnings are monitored via radio, television or the Bureau of Meteorology websites. Battery-powered radios are to be available in the event of power interruptions on site.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you operate a vessel or a business in cyclone regions you should have a procedure in place which covers all warning phases including:

  • Pre-cyclone
  • Cyclone watch
  • Cyclone alert

If in doubt or unable to complete, please contact our office for assistance.


Tip

Our best tip is if you don’t have a cyclone procedure in place – contact our office for assistance.

In addition to a cyclone procedures, it’s wise to have a Continuity Plan in place in the event your vessel or business suffers damage or loss not only due to a cyclone but any other major event.

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.


Tip

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.


Tip

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.


Tip

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.

Tip

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.

Electrical safety onboard commercial vessels and in the workplace represents a major problem in many areas! Here’s one reason why…

Recently an electrician was fault-finding on his own in a control panel and attempted to remove a plastic cover to access control relays, he was wearing Class 0 rubber gloves which are insulating gloves for electrical protection.

The cover fell to the floor of the panel and he reached down to retrieve the cover. His glove caught on the sharp edges of exposed terminal lugs of the control transformer which punctured the rubber glove.

He received an electric shock through his wrist when the current arced between two exposed cable terminals through the puncture holes in the gloves.

He was able to remove himself from the panel and another worker drove him to a regional hospital where he has undergone multiple surgeries.

A report on the incident said there were a number of contributing factors:

  • the electrician was working near energised electrical equipment;
  • the electrician did not isolate or test before working on the equipment;
  • there was no protective shroud over the control transformer terminals;
  • the rubber insulating glove was punctured when pushed past sharp edges of the terminals;
  • inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) was being used.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our key recommendations are:

  • ensure all electrical installations comply with relevant standards
  • ensure all persons working on electrical equipment or installations are aware of and comply with emergency procedures
  • ensure personnel qualified in first aid are available when working on electrical equipment or installations;
  • determine whether there is a requirement to work or fault find on or near the installation or equipment while energised.

If workers are required to work on or near energised electrical equipment, duty holders are to:

  • undertake a written risk assessment performed by a competent person
  • prepare a written safe work method statement
  • select and use suitable safety equipment and PPE

Tip

Ensure a competent safety observer is present when work is carried out on or near an energised electrical installation unless the risk assessment has determined no observer is required for the proposed work.

Remember water and electricity DO NOT mix!

It appears not too many people are taking notice of the dangers associated with refuelling petrol engines!

WorkSafe recently issued a safety alert highlighting the increased risk of fires during refuelling of petrol-powered equipment.

The alert was issued following an incident in which a worker received burns to their body while refuelling a petrol-powered high-pressure washer.

The incident occurred while the petrol-powered pressure washer was still hot from use, and the investigation found a number of contributing factors, including:

  • Refuelling while the high-pressure washer engine was still hot from use.
  • The design of the pressure washer where the fuel tank was located directly over the top of the pressure washer engine.
  • The pressure washer engine is fuelled by petrol, which is a flammable liquid.
  • Vapours and fuel spills are easily ignited.
  • The pressure washer was mounted on the tray of a tray back vehicle, requiring workers to stand on top of the vehicle tray for refuelling tasks.

Depending on the positioning of the equipment, the working space may be limited; this may also have affected safe access / egress to the pressure washer.

While this incident involved a pressure washer it could well have been an outboard motor, hookah unit, lifting equipment or any other petrol-powered equipment.

 

The consequences if a petrol fuelled fire occurs onboard a vessel can be catastrophic resulting in serious injury and loss of the vessel.

At all times ensure you undertake safe refuelling practices.

Refer to AS1940:2017 The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Shorlink’s recommendations to keep you safe when refuelling petrol-powered engines include:

  • Undertake a risk assessment to ensure control measures are in place to eliminate ignition hazards when refuelling.
  • Ensure workers are aware of fire risks during refuelling petrol-powered equipment and understand the control measures implemented to prevent the risk of fire.
  • Consider the use of funnels to reduce the risk of spillage.
  • Ensure all equipment is switched off allowing the engine to cool down prior refuelling.
  • Refuel away from heat and possible ignition sources; including hot parts, vapours or flames.
  • Refuel in well-ventilated areas.
  • Ensure appropriate fire extinguishers are readily accessible; dry powder extinguishers are suitable for petrol fires.
  • Consider the positioning of equipment for safe access when setting up vehicles.
  • Ensure workers refuelling equipment are trained and competent to perform the task.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety boots, non-flammable long pants and long sleeve shirts, eye or face protection, and gloves.

Tip

Here’s a few tips to consider when using petrol-powered equipment:

  • Use a funnel to reduce the risk of fuel spillage.
  • Consider the use of a removable/portable fuel tank; but
  • Always consult with the manufacturer if you are considering redesigning the setup of the equipment.
  • Refuel using appropriate fuel containers.

While your SMS may meet AMSA requirements under MO504 will it stand up if challenged in court?

In many cases…NO!

We all know AMSA assesses SMS’s to ensure they have all the components required under MO504 and we’re all in favour of that because it helps you in getting your SMS up to speed.

But…did you know that while your SMS may meet AMSA’s requirements does it meet Work Health & Safety requirements?

Unfortunately, in many cases it does not which leaves you exposed in the event of an incident.

The bottom line is AMSA undertake an “assessment” of your SMS which does not, in most cases take in the content of your operational and emergency procedures to any extent.

Along with the risk assessments the procedures are the backbone of your SMS and if they are missing or don’t reflect how you do things you’re in trouble.

We’ve been involved in developing, auditing and assessing safety management systems, including risk assessments and procedures for over 30 years and we’re available to help you with your SMS compliance.

Shorlink now has available a number of services to help you in getting your SMS to a level where it offers the best legal protection. Listed below are our 3 key services to ensure your compliance.

  1. Basic Assessment – FOR FREE!
    We take marine safety so seriously, that we offer a free assessment of your current SMS.
    Our Principal Consult will review your current SMS and provide you with a report of areas which should be revised and procedures that should be included if required to meet AMSA requirements.
  2. Gap Analysis.
    Our Lead Auditor will conduct a gap analysis to determine the strength of your SMS including an initial review of your operational and emergency procedures. A written report will be provided upon completion. Prices start at a low $120.00
  3. Full System Audit.
    A full system audit entails a detailed review of your entire SMS including all operational and emergency procedures. This is undertaken by our Lead Auditor. An external full system audit provides the best possible protection in the event of an incident and…gives you peace of mind. For your best price to get peace of mind contact our office by…

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We highly recommend having your SMS reviewed by a competent person who has considerable industry experience.

If you don’t use Shorlink that’s fine but please be aware of people out there saying they have experience when, in fact have little or no relevant experience in the area you operate.

Of course we recommend Shorlink, that’s only natural but if not please be careful of who you engage to assess or audit your SMS!


Tip

When looking for an external party to assess or audit your SMS and in particular your procedures ask them about their experience in the operations you undertake.

If they don’t have hands on experience in your field, then think very carefully abut engaging them.

Our Principal Consultant and Lead Auditor, Wayne Linklater has been in the maritime industry for 50 years and has extensive hands on experience in boatbuilding, commercial vessel operations, safety management and auditing.

If you’re like most people you haven’t given wet weather gear much thought other than putting it on when it’s raining, in rough weather or working on a fishing vessel.

Unfortunately, not thinking about it has resulted in minor to critical injuries and in some cases loss of life!

When considering your wet weather gear there are some specific factors you should take into account including the type, quality, material, size and where you operate.

Let’s work backwards and look at where you operate, if you work in cold climates then you need gear that has a thermal lining to help keep you warm. Working in the tropics you’d look for more lightweight breathable gear. That’s easy!

I’ll skip size for now and go to material where you can get really cheap nylon type gear that usually lasts for a few days then rips. The next step up is a heavier grade material that many use and is much better than the cheap nylon type.

As far as quality and material go and if you want the good gear you need wet weather gear that has been specifically manufactured for use at sea. I always went for Burke gear, yes it’s a bit expensive but it lasts for years especially when working on fishing vessels.

Now, onto size and yes in this case size does matter. Too large and it can flap about with the potential of getting caught in winches and other things which can led to serious injuries.

Too small and it’ll restrict your movement which can cause issues as well so…as far as size is concerned you need to ensure your wet weather gear fits comfortably and is not too big.

Gum boot, one of my favourite subjects when it comes to wet weather gear! Too big they are cumbersome and can making working difficult. Too small and you end up with cramps and sores which can led to health issues so…make sure they’re a good fit.  Check out our tip for gum boots!

 

Now we come to the type of wet weather gear you choose and…this is an important issue as you’ll see.

The main types out there are the pants type or bib & brace for your lower half then there’s a multitude of jackets to choose from.

There’s also the all-in-one or waders as they’re know which are great for keeping you dry especially if you’re a fly or lure fisherman.

I have to admit that for working onboard boats I’m not so keen as they have been either directly or indirectly attributable for minor to serious incidents including loss of life.

Think about what happens when you fall overboard and they fill with water, you’ll be near impossible to lift out of the water! I’ve had personal experience here with a deckhand that fell overboard when we were on our mooring.

He fell over the stern in a fast current and his waders filled with water and the next thing he was a good 100mtrs from the boat and having trouble staying afloat! While we were quick to save him if we weren’t there to rescue him he would have most likely drowned!


Shorlink’s Recommendation

When buying wet weather gear make sure you think about where you’re going to be wearing it such as in the cold south or up in the tropics. Make sure it fits snugly and is not too loose or too tight but with boots take into account my tip below. It’s as simple as that!


Tip

About gum boots, our tip is when buying a pair make sure you go for quality and ½ to 1 size larger than a perfect fit. Why? Because if you fall overboard they are easy to get off and…did you know they make a great buoyant device.

Take them off, lift them out of the water and tip the water out then turn them upside down and push them into the water. Now you’ve got something to keep you afloat until rescue arrives!

Try doing that with waders!

This is a very important question because over the last 12 months I’ve undertaken several Safety Audits and conducted multiple onboard training sessions where fire safety was compromised.

Here’s a short list of things we’ve discovered in the course of our activities:

  • 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.

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

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

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

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.

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.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

For the safety of your crew and vessel we strongly recommend the following be undertaken regularly…

  • Check fire extinguishers monthly and have them serviced when due
  • Test your air shut offs regularly by actually operating them
  • Test your fuel shut offs regularly by actually operating them

Replace or repair anything that does not function properly and do it now!

Our last recommendation here is to make sure ALL your crew know where these things are and how to operate them!


Tip

For dry chemical (powder) fire extinguishers take them out of their brackets and turn them upside down every couple of months. This ensures the powder is not compacted and they will operate when needed.

Ensure all your crew members take a walk around your vessel and familiarise themselves with the location and operation of fire extinguishers onboard.

Next week – we will follow-up with more about Fire!