Following an incident report received from a commercial shipping company, managers at Watkins Superyachts were prompted to take a closer look at increasing the risk-assessment culture across their fleet. The incident in question involved an electrician on board a commercial ship who fell off a stepladder whilst adjusting a CCTV camera on deck. He suffered subsequent injuries that required repatriation.

“In this case, the accident was of a minor nature but had rather expensive implications,” explained Adrian McCourt, managing director at Watkins Superyachts. “Simply put, the electrician took a step ladder, placed it on deck and opened it, climbed it and successfully fell off. The boat was rolling, the job was not urgent, the ladder was too short, he had to overstretch, and he had no means of steadying himself.” Watkins Superyachts decided to examine the outcome of the incident to make it fit in a large yacht environment.

“To many friends in the superyacht business, risk assessment can be the bête noire of a blame culture,” said McCourt. “The finger-wagging ‘I told you so’, from the smug, risk-averse desk driver. Despite the sometimes fearsome tones used in official reports, risk assessment need not be bureaucratic or time consuming – sometimes just a conscious ‘stop and think’ moment.”

“To adjust a CCTV camera, the time required to risk assess this job would have been five minutes,” continued McCourt. “If the job is not risk assessed and the crewmember slips, falls and injures his arm resulting in a visit to the doctor and subsequent repatriation, what is the knock on affect of this?” A fleet letter circulated following the incident and revealed that the consequences of the incident could result in corrective and preventive actions, which total approximately 109 people 120 hours to rectify the situtation.

McCourt believes that the superyacht industry is particularly weak at practicing risk assessment and that it can learn from the commercial shipping industry in this respect. “Commercial ships have a very good safety record these days because this culture has spread,” he concludes. “The guy that won’t get on a step ladder without making a risk assessment is the same guy that will tell the captain that he is going alongside with the stabiliser out. The culture of safety is very goof but It is a different culture; they’ve got the manning, the manpower and time to do it but it’s a great place to learn from."

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