Lifeboat Drill Safety Tips

Lifeboat drills – they’re designed to help keep seamen and workers safe in the event of an emergency, but even the act of practicing lifeboat usage comes with its own risks and hazards.

A study done in 2014 by a safety survey group based out of the UK indicated that accidents involving the usage of lifeboats and their affiliated systems had caused nearly 16% of all fatalities suffered by merchant marines and other seaworkers in the United Kingdom. What may be more surprising to learn is that these accidents occurred during training exercises and drills, all performed under the supervision of qualified, experienced workers.

These statistics should come as a wake-up call to any worker who participates in lifeboat training drills. Most, if not all, of these accidents could have been avoided or prevented through a number of means, and proper safety during these drills can be the difference between life and death for you and your crew. Take a look and some safety tips, common accident causes, and more below, and better understand how to prevent these sort of accidents:

Keep a close eye on the lifeboat release mechanism: One of the leading causes of injury and death during a lifeboat safety run is a failure of the mechanism that releases the lifeboat itself. While international regulations state that lifeboat drills must be run once per month, the safety inspections of the equipment involved must be performed more regularly. Make sure to schedule frequent inspections and/or repairs of the release mechanism to make sure it works as designed, and to ensure all problems are caught before they can become a major issue.

Maintain all related equipment: In a similar vein, all related equipment to the lifeboat itself needs regular inspection and repair/replacement when needed. Above and beyond the release mechanism, make sure your safety inspections include the lifeboat itself as well as all related equipment such as life vests and the crane holding the lifeboat aloft (referred to as a davit) to make sure it’s all functioning as designed.

Ensure clear communication during the drill: A common source of accident (not to mention confusion, which may defeat the point of running these drills) is miscommunication during the drill itself. Make sure each of your workers are aware of each step of the process, and communicate the completion of each step effectively so your crew knows what to expect next, as well as how each step was completed successfully. Don’t just show your crew members what it looks like when it’s done – make sure they understand why and how it was done so they can better perform it on their own.

Verify all procedures as being safe and designed for efficiency: Some of the risk of injury stemming from lifeboat drills are the procedures themselves. Any crew member running through the lifeboat drills for the first time may put themselves at risk if the training procedures involve unneeded steps, or if the provided instructions aren’t clear for a first-timer. Make sure every step along the process is documented clearly and contains no additional steps or anything that can confuse workers – you want to write your drill instructions as though everyone involved is seeing them for the first time, no matter how experienced some of your crew might be.

Take time to familiarize your staff with the needed equipment: Finally, after everything has been inspected and documented, a great way to improve safety during drills is to allow your crew the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the equipment before running the drills. Even the pressure of a training exercise isn’t the best time to try and suddenly teach a new crewmember how to operate the crane; make sure all of your crew gets a chance to familiarize themselves on the equipment and practice a little before the drills begin in earnest. This will improve their skills before they’re truly needed, and go a long way towards helping prevent accidents and injuries during the drills – let alone in the event those skills need to be called upon.

If you’ve been hurt during a lifeboat training drill, contact the maritime lawyers of O’Bryan Law today and let us help you fight for the justice you deserve.

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