Injured crew member off Alaska: the importance of lock out/tag out

Comment by Captain Carl Smith, Master and OIM of SSDV Ocean Courage and instructor at MAMA.
This case came out as well as it could for the injured man.  He was within helicopter range and was delivered to a good medical facility in short order.  Very often, though, we are operating out of helo range and in parts of the world where medical care is not up to US or western standards.  Mariners need to do everything possible to foster a culture of safe work aboard, encouraging people to plan and carry out tasks in a manner that reduces risk to an absolute minimum.  This is where supervisors are critical.  Does this job need to be done now?  Should you assign more help to the person doing it?  How will this affect other systems on the ship?  Is current or predicted weather a factor? An effective permit to work system which makes crew go through this thought process can really make it safer for everyone.  Lock out/tag out means looking for potential energy sources that could injure a crew member if released, not just opening switches.  Have you ever signed off on a permit without reading it closely?  It is not just a paper exercise, but a strong tool to make jobs safer.  When one of your crew comes in with a permit, take some time and ask questions.  A discussion with the crew member seeking a permit to work demonstrates your interest, gives you information on ongoing work, and allows you to determine whether that the person is competent to carry out the task.  Good leadership includes knowing what is going on and taking care of your people.  Managing risk is a big part of that.    
By Professional Mariner Staff