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Working aloft: unsafe practices on superyachts

Superyacht crew continue to be seen working at height without the necessary safety equipment…

The UK Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation and Maritime (CHIRP) continues to receive reports from the yachting sector concerning crew working aloft in an unsafe manner. In its latest safety bulletin, CHIRP published one such report regarding several deck crew on a superyacht working at height without any safety equipment.

“They were working at a considerable height above the waterline washing down with detergent, which in my opinion increased the risk of slipping and falling over the side,” wrote the anonymous reporter, who also included photos of the scene that can be viewed in the bulletin here. “As you can see in the photos, certain crewmembers were leaning over the side of the vessel trying to clean the superstructure.”

Highlighting the lack of crew safety awareness and a poor on-board safety culture, CHIRP’s maritime advisory board explains both the human element and technical considerations that should be noted from the report. “Too often, naval architects and designers, when designing a vessel, give scant consideration to the practicalities of everyday operations such as washing down or routine access for inspection purposes,” CHIRP comments.

“Too often, naval architects and designers, when designing a vessel, give scant consideration to the practicalities of everyday operations such as washing down or routine access for inspection purposes..."

“Rounded or sloping housings and decks may be aesthetically pleasing, but without suitable handrails, fishplates or securing points for safety harness carabiners or similar devices, are potentially lethal for crewmembers carrying out their everyday jobs. Long-handled brushes will only go so far to compensate for thoughtless design.” 

In addition, the advisory board emphasises that all crewmembers, especially those in positions of authority, have a responsibility for their safety and that of other crewmembers. “They should ensure that the necessary tools and equipment, such as safety harnesses and life vests, are to hand so that tasks can be carried out in a safe manner, and should intervene when such work is not being conducted in a safe manner,” CHIRP concludes.

CHIRP actively encourages seafarers across the maritime world to submit anonymous reports of any incidents and near misses they experience in order to share those reports and examine the lessons to be learned, with the aim of creating a greater maritime safety culture worldwide. The report in question can be found in CHIRP’s latest bulletin here.

The MCA’s Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen and the REG Code are two publications outlining that crew should be wearing harnesses, among other precautions, when working aloft or overside. However, sometimes crew can struggle to fulfil these safe working practices when yachts are not designed with the equipment needed to meet the requirements. Previous coverage discusses the importance of designing and building trackways on yachts here.

Image: Crewmember using trackway, courtesy of TLC Refit and Repair

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