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Who is Responsible for Safety On Board?

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Who is responsible for safety on board?  In my opinion, the answer is EVERYONE!  Everyone, to varying degrees from the Owner to Management companies, to the Captains and Crew. No one is exempt. From my perspective, the primary role of the crew in all departments is safety and I believe that many crew members, particularly those new to the industry, may not understand just how important their roles are in regard to safety on board. 

Many crew members may well be performing tasks without understanding that the procedures they are following are crucial to the safe operation of the yacht, in accordance to their departmental roles.  It is ESSENTIAL that everyone gets better informed. If you don’t know the meaning of SOLAS, LY3, ISM, IMO, SSO, MSDS, PSDS, SDS, PSSR, SMS, EEBD then this article is for you!

From the point of view of the interior department, the consideration of safety is vast and varied. Interior crew are responsible for the maintenance, safety and security of the interior guest and crew areas, the correct maintenance of all fittings and furnishings, and all the service activities directed towards the owners and guests.

Herein, the issue of safety can be divided into different areas:

Workplace Safety Signs2

Safety of Self

Emergencies: All interior crew should know every emergency exit, location of fire extinguishers and Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBDs). They should also know the location of water tight doors and how to operate them safely.  They should have a basic medical education, know where the defibrillator and other medical equipment can be found and should be taught how to use it. All crew should also know and understand their role in case of abandon ship, man overboard, fire and medical emergencies.

Hygiene and protective clothing:  They should also be aware of safety procedures with regards to food handling and personal hygiene, the proper use of chemical cleaning and flame retardant products and the wearing of proper protective clothing – which includes proper deck shoes, particularly during the manoeuvring of the yacht.

Vaccinations: If you work on a yacht which travels widely, Renee Kempf RN., a senior maritime medical instructor for MedAire’s yachting division, suggests that you contact your medical provider at least six weeks prior to departure to discuss your expected itinerary, your past vaccination history and recommended shots, and where to access a local healthcare provider to administer them.  Allow four to six weeks for the immunizations take effect.

Fire safety: The MCA's ruling on 'flame proofing textiles'' states: 1.1 ''Under the requirements of the MCA Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY2 Code), unless the space is fitted with a fixed automatic sprinkler system, floor coverings, upholstery, bedding components and suspended textiles are required to be inherently fire retardant by complying with the relevant parts of the IMO Fire Test Procedures Code (FTP Code) or an equivalent standard acceptable to the administration''.

All large 'Red Ensign Group' yachts over 500GRT must have a sprinkler system (Hi fog) to be MCA LY2 compliant. MCA LY2 compliant vessels below 500GRT that do not have an automatic sprinkler system should have textiles/materials approved in accordance with the IMO FTP Code, Annex 1, Part 7, or equivalent.

Safety of Fellow Crew Members, Owners and Guests

This includes all of the above considerations, plus an understanding of the procedures for mustering guests in the event of the aforementioned emergencies.  Medical supplies should be regularly checked to ensure that supplies are plentiful in the case of any eventuality and that existing supplies are still within their valid date of use.

The interior crew should all be able to locate the emergency medical contact information (usually kept on the bridge) and successfully perform a test call to their medical services provider using the vessel’s radio and/or satellite phone in the event of a medical emergency.

yahct on fire

Safety of the Yacht

As pointed out by Mr Tom Jones, the training manager at Resolve Maritime Academy in Fort Lauderdale, fire protection systems are installed in the galley and laundry facility areas of any yacht as they are considered high-risk for fires.

So, performing routine tasks such as unplugging electrical equipment after use, cleaning filters and ventilation ducts of tumble driers, lint traps, vacuum cleaner filters, disposing of rubbish, careful stowage of crockery and glassware, cleaning products and other items related to the interior department.

Other points to heed include not placing towels on lit deck lighting, and not leaving wardrobe doors open/ajar, especially on those with auto-lighting installed, which can cause clothes to burn. Guest and crew corridors should be kept clear and cleaning and other equipment should be tidied up and out of the way when not in use.

A case in point concerns the laundry room. This area along with the galley constitutes one of the areas where an accident is most likely to occur – consider small spaces in which a great deal of heat is generated, chemicals are used and where water outlets may be perilously close to electrical sockets.  All interior crew are likely to know how a washer and dryer work, but they should all know the answers to the following questions about the laundry:

Where does the dryer exhaust go to? Is the lint trap device cleaned before and after every use, and who is responsible for that? Where are the power isolations for the laundry equipment? Where is the nearest hose station or extinguisher in relation to where the dryer exhausts outside the ship? (In the event of a fire in the ventilation, the easiest way to fight it would be from the outside.)

Safety of the Environment

You can safeguard the marine environment by exercising an awareness of cleaning chemicals and their effect on it.  Pollution impacts the water and marine life and is a potential threat to human health. While one yacht on the water may not seem significant, multiply the waste generated by thousands of yachts and the effects are staggering. Most of these pollutants stem from marine debris, sewage, vessel maintenance and cleaning. 

In order to alleviate this you can do your best to keep rubbish out of the water and to separate and recycle cans, glass, plastic and paper. 

Many cleaning products and detergents contain phosphates and heavy metals that can accumulate in fish and filter-feeding marine animals such as oysters and clams which could wind up on your dinner table. Today, many products are available that are safer for the environment, so try to choose the "greener" labels at local marine stores. 

Crew must be versant with the MARPOL agreement and in particular Annexe 5, which outlines the seas which are considered to be “Special Areas” – why and how they must be treated.

Plastic on beach

Be Aware of Chemical Data Sheets

Learn how to read Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) Product Safety Data Sheets (PSDS) and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).  These are intended to provide you with procedures for handling or working with substances in a safe manner, and include information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures.

A PSDS describes the mechanical, thermal, physical, chemical, and specific properties of the product.  There is a duty to properly label substances on the basis of physico-chemical, health and/or environmental risk.

Labels can include hazard symbols such as the European Union standard black diagonal cross on an orange background, used to denote a harmful substance

SDSs are a widely used system for cataloguing information on chemicals, chemical compounds and chemical mixtures. SDS information may also include instructions for the safe use and potential hazards associated with a particular material or product.

These data sheets can be found anywhere where chemicals are being used. An SDS for a substance is not intended primarily for use by the general consumer, focusing instead on the hazards of working with the material in an occupational setting. In some jurisdictions, the SDS is required to state the chemical's risks, safety, and effect on the environment. 

It is therefore important to use an SDS specific to both country and supplier, as the same product (e.g. paints sold under identical brand names by the same company) can have different formulations in different countries. The formulation and hazard of a product using a generic name (e.g. sugar, soap) may also vary between manufacturers in the same country. MSDS formats can vary from source to source within a country depending on national requirements.

  Hazads 1 278  Hazards 2 278    

Safety Drills Must Be Second Nature

A certain responsibility must lie with any Captain to bring safety awareness to their crew - and there is no excuse not to do this, as they themselves should have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the role of safety in every department. 

The Captain should ensure that he or his Ship’s Security Officer (SSO) instructs everyone as to the location of the fire-fighting lockers, ensures that the crew know what equipment is in these lockers and how to use it.  NB: Under the code of safe working practices outlined by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), every ship with more than 5 crew must appoint a Ship’s Security Officer (SSO). 

The crew should also know where extinguishers and fire hoses are kept, the proper way to release them and how to use them. This sounds simple, but on many vessels equipment is hidden for aesthetics. 

During an emergency, when stress levels are elevated, life-saving equipment may not be easy to find.  Knowing the essentials before a real emergency arises is paramount. In an emergency, when rapid and effective action is required, taking time to try to learn or recall the appropriate action never ends well.

All crew members should know the yacht on which they are working like the back of their hands. Then, if a fire starts in the middle of the night, they can quickly get to safety, assist others to safety and safely mitigate the situation.

The vessel’s fire plans should be regularly reviewed. All crew should know how to use the vessel’s construction features to contain the fire, such as closing doors and other openings in the area of the fire to help contain it.

The fire plan can be used to locate hidden areas on the vessel such as stairwells and everyone should know how much open space is between the stairs and the structural bulkhead behind it. Knowing the difference between structural bulkheads and decorative bulkheads is important.

If you need to boundary cool a bulkhead, be sure it’s structural, as spraying water on the decorative bulkhead will not work.

Mr Tom Jones also suggests that in order to familiarize crew with the use and proper handling of the hose and nozzle, the following drill should be practiced:

Have the crew charge a hose on an open deck and allow them to experience the ship’s fire main pressure and how to handle the hose, operate the nozzle and understand Nozzle Reaction.

Have crew move the hose through a stairwell and manoeuvre the hose around fixed objects. Observe closely to ensure that crew are holding the hose correctly and their feet are in the correct position. During these exercises, ensure that water is not discharged in the yacht interior!

Life vest

Lessons from Aviation

Training courses are of course important, but ongoing practice and drills are essential to embed the learning.  An interview with a British Airway’s pilot, ('Head in the Clouds' December 2012) highlighted the fact that the airline industry is a prime example of this way of thinking. The pilot stated that understanding and applying safety procedures is vital and lives depend upon it. 

All airline crew complete an intensive initial training course and are required to take exams in safety and emergency procedures every year, which involve both practical and written examinations on all the aircraft types they are qualified to operate. In addition, before every flight during a ‘pre-flight briefing’ they focus on risks and safety procedures. 

Are we in the superyacht industry placing enough importance on safety training? Don’t our passengers’ and fellow crew members’ lives also depend on our safety training procedures?

Manila Amendments

In January 2012, major revisions to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers (the STCW Convention), and its associated Code entered into force (with a five-year transitional period until 1 January 2017).

The Manila Amendments refresher training is now required for the basic STCW safety courses every five years but, as we know this is no competition for the yearly examinations undertaken by some members of the aviation industry and without mandatory, vessel-specific training- whether this be builder, size or individual vessel, we must ask ourselves if there is sufficient understanding of safety procedures to cater to the demands of an ever-evolving yacht building market.

Regulatory changes are directing us in the right direction, but are we as an industry doing enough to maintain the highest standards of safety?

Mr Ken Dales of the Bluewater Yachting management team points out that all new crew members will depend on the yacht’s senior management to give them specific instructions on how safety procedures are operated on board.

The Personal Safety and Social Responsibility (PSSR) section of the basic safety training course (STCW) gives a generic outline with regards to safety procedures, risk assessment and communication, along with the individual’s role on board.  All yachts are required to adhere to the general principles of safety but specifics i.e. chemicals used, operation of safety equipment, fire-fighting equipment/procedures and sea survival equipment must be taught to all new crew.

The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) training manual should be the first document new crew are shown, along with any risk assessments which have been undertaken and any Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) held on board.

 Coast Guard Boat in Morro Bay2

SOLAS is a convention initiated in 1914 in response to the “Titanic” disaster. It has undergone a number of changes since then and in 1994 was incorporated into chapter IX of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. By 2002 almost all of the international shipping community was required to comply with the ISM Code.

The ISM Code was created by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Ferriby Marine's Captain Graham Botterill, Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords in the UK on ship safety. All vessels of 500GT and over are required to comply with the ISM Code, which provides an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention.

The LY3 Code (Large Commercial Yacht code) launched at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2012 applies to commercial ships of less than 500GT. It provides guidance on how to develop and implement an effective safety management system for vessels under 500GT, where full certification to the ISM Code is not a requirement.

The Purpose of ISM Code is:

• To ensure safety at sea

• To prevent human injury or loss of life

• To avoid damage to the environment, in particular to the marine environment and the ship.

It requires owners and operators of ships to set in place a Safety Management System (SMS). The introduction of a SMS requires a Company to document its management procedures to ensure that conditions, activities and tasks, both ashore and afloat, affecting safety and environmental protection are planned, organised, executed and checked in accordance with legislative and company requirements.

“The SMS will enable a Company to identify areas for improvement in safety practice and pollution prevention measures. The effective implementation of a safety culture should lead to an improvement in safety consciousness and safety management skills.” According to the IMO.

Similarly, as stated by the MCA, “The ISM Code seeks to address the human element of ship operations”.

Each SMS Consists of the Following Elements:

• Commitment from top management

• A Top Tier Policy Manual

• A Procedures Manual that documents what is done on board the ship, during normal operations and in emergency situations

• Procedures for conducting both internal and external audits to ensure the ship is doing what is documented in the Procedures Manual

• A Designated Person Ashore to serve as the link between the ships and shore staff and to verify the SMS implementation

• A system for identifying where actual practices do not meet those that are documented and for implementing associated corrective action

• Regular management reviews

• Another requirement of the ISM Code is for the ship to be maintained in conformity with the provisions of relevant rules and regulations and with any additional requirements which may be established by the Company.

• Each ISM compliant ship is audited, first by the Company (internal audit) and then each 2.5 to 3 years by the Flag State Marine Administration to verify the fulfilment and effectiveness of their Safety Management System.

Once SMS is verified and it is working and effectively implemented, the ship is issued with The Safety Management Certificate. Comments from the auditor and/or audit body and from the ship are incorporated into the SMS by headquarters.

So, in conclusion, there is a great deal to consider and to learn.  Much of it is common sense, but taking personal responsibility to learn the ‘rules’ and to abide by them is key to making life safe for everyone on board – including yourself!

I wonder how many of the recent maritime accidents and resultant loss of life might have been avoided if the correct procedures had been properly implemented and followed.

(Note: First published 21 February 2013 but it's such good advice we decided to repost it for all the newbies out there!)

*Image credits: Pixabay CCO; Wikimedia; Geographe/Wikipedia;

About the author:
Having first completed an HND in Hotel Catering and Institutional Management in Oxford, Lynne has since acquired more than thirty years of experience in the hospitality industry, ten of which were served aboard luxury motor yachts and a further twenty in other yacht-related and villa management sectors.  Lynne has extensive practical experience in all aspects of interior management in both the yachting and luxury villa sectors and has been a PYA accredited trainer for more than a decade.

In recent years Lynne’s skills were extended through various relevant training courses, including a Professional Training Certificate, the Levels 2 and 3 Awards in Food Safety in Catering and Energy Management in Business training. Lynne has recently become a PYA Council Member, to assist with the representation of the Interior Department and is a PYA GUEST approved Trainer.

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