Yard Safety

21 October 2010 By Janine Ketterer

It’s that time of year again. Vessels are headed to the yard and, after a few weeks, crew may begin to feel right at home. Some of the initial safety concerns fall by the wayside as comfort takes the place of caution – this is when accidents happen.

“During the height of the season we will have in upwards of six hundred crewmembers working and living in our shipyard and marina,” Scott Miser, chief operations officer at Rybovich Shipyard, says. “Then we add one hundred fifty shipyard employees and one hundred fifty subcontractors to that number and the safety exposure and concerns are immense.”

Miser maintains that all of the Rybovich employees undergo a rigorous safety program. “Yacht crew are always the wild card in this mix,” he says.

Many vessels run strict programs, which include safety procedures. Others are more lax. This disconnect can cause safety hazards. “[Some] yachts are very loose and the shipyard project managers on board the yachts spend a lot of time just keeping those [vessels] safe for our workers,” Miser says. “In fact, most of our reported injuries are a result of crew practices and not following procedure.”

Some of the biggest crew safety concerns in the yard are:

Footwear: While sandals are easy and obvious while on the docks, closed-toed shoes are practical for the yard due to the prevalence of machinery, wiring and tools, etc.

Headphones: “We discourage their use due to the industrial equipment and vehicles everywhere,” Miser says.

Smoking: Due to paint and other flammable materials, if crew need to pop out for a smoke break, it is generally asked that they stick to designated smoking areas.

Eye protection: Spills and splashes happen – not so much fun when you’re working with paints and chemicals. Protective eyewear should be worn, and we’re not talking about your sunnies.

Ear protection: The yard’s machinery can generate a lot of noise. Crew are encouraged to wear ear protection – turning the volume up on your iPod only makes this worse.

Working aloft: Wear a harness, just as you would at any other time you’re working aloft.

Working over water: If you’re working over water, Rybovich suggests wearing a life vest.

Painting: Wear a respirator when painting and understand all the chemical compounds in the materials.

While crewmembers may not be involved with welding, hot services are ever-present in the yard. “Although we have welding screens, there is still the issue of peripheral vision,” Miser says. “Most crew know not to watch the arc, but every now and then we have a flash burn incident resulting from a lack of knowledge.”

Open hatches can cause problems. If there is a need to keep a hatch open, it’s imperative that crew make note of it to ensure yard workers and other crew do not trip or fall. Crew also should be wary of ladders and scaffolding – pay attention to where they’re located and if they’re moved.

Although the yard may be home for several weeks or even months, your guard always should be up. Awareness in the yard is key to keeping everyone safe.