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Monday
Jan302012

Make Time for Safety Training

This article, by Gene Spinazola, was published in Marina Dock Age – July 1997

Baseball teams all have spring training.  Before they start playing for all the marbles or whatever it is, they play for, they have some practice games to get ready for the real games.  We’re not talking about OJT, or on-the-job training; we’re talking about BJT, before-the-job training.  And that’s something that marina operators need to do too.  I know that this concept may be somewhat difficult to get used to, but at least give it a glance.

Think back to last summer: It was hectic.  Only half of the staff returned.  And remember the new gas dock attendant, young Jack Daniels?  After that boat exploded at the fuel dock, all we saw from him was tail lights.

Every year you deal with the same situations: get the docks in, moorings set, grass cut, rest rooms clean, OSHA requirements met, and the list goes on and on. 

You need to hold spring training when the timing’s right for you because spring hits at different times for different marinas.  In Maine, for example, spring lasts until the 4th of July and then we start fall.  Yet we have the same hectic pace here that you do in every other part of the country: When the weather starts to get warm—it’s kind of like dandelions—people start popping up at the marina.

Don’t wait until fall and then say, “Next year, we need to do some emergency planning and training with the employees.”  It’s time to do that now.

One of the best programs you can offer is a lesson in the care and use of fire extinguishers.  Fire extinguishers are the single most effective piece of fire fighting equipment available on the market.  It’s true: Little red fire extinguishers put out more fires than big red fire trucks. 

Set aside an hour in the workday for extinguisher training.  Don’t assume anything about the basics and don’t think that “because we did this last year” everyone remembers.  First, you have some new employees, and second, learning is improved by repetition.

Explain the burning process and the four classes of fire.  Explain how to recognize each type of fire extinguisher used in the marina and how each one works to extinguish a fire.  Have your staff discharge several extinguishers and emphasize PASS: Pull the pin; Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire; Squeeze the trigger; and Sweep the agent back and forth to blanket the fire.

Impress on your staff that their own personal safety is always number one on the priority list and the safety of others is the second priority.

Who gets this training?  The National Fire Protection Association’s standard, NFPA 303, Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards, Employee Training, reads: “All employees, including office personnel, shall be given training in the use of portable fire extinguishers and hoses in the fighting of fire.”

The expense involved in this training is the recharging or replacement of the extinguisher.  The extinguisher discharge area should be remote and well clear of boats, cars and other property that will be affected by the extinguishing agent.  If you need some help with this training session, ask your supplier or the fire department.  It’s even better if the help comes from someone who knows boats and boat fires and how your marina operates.  And remember the saying about “little red fire extinguishers and big red fire trucks.”

Here’s a little fuel dock story that goes a long way to explain the need for training: An electrical fire in the engine of a 20-foot open fishing boat ignited some of the gas and oil in and around the engine.  The fuel dock was equipped with two B40:C extinguishers as required by NFPA 303.  In addition, the manager had bought a 75-pound dry chemical wheel cart with 25 feet of hose, which was also located at the fuel dock.

When the fire occurred, staffers grabbed the two hand-held portable extinguishers, which they used up quickly.  Next, they used the hand-portable extinguishers from the dry stack building.  Next, well, you get the idea.  But most importantly, they ran by the big, red 75-pound wheel cart and never even considered using it on the fire.

Teach your staff to be prepared.  They should know things like when to call for help; who to call for help; and how to get the right response for help.  Think about hearing this: “We have a fire in a boat,” or, “We have a boat fire in the dry stack building.”  Which of those statements will get the best response?  Sure, the second one will get all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and women and the big red fire trucks, too.

Do you have a written emergency response plan?  Do you review it annually?  Do you use it as a training tool for new and old employees?  Do you keep records of your staff training sessions?  Can you defend your position and say, “I have a well-trained staff,” when you go to court?

While the emphasis here appears to be on the fire issue, it really is on the need for emergency response planning to prepare your staff for any emergency.  Police, medical, oil spill, storm and fire all need to be addressed.

What do you want your staff to do if young Jack Daniels pumps 50 gallons of gasoline through the fishing rod holder and into his bilge—at your fuel dock?  Think about it.

Gene Spinazola specializes in marina fire and safety issues, and he welcomes calls: (207) 326-9147.  He is president of Gene Spinazola P.E. & Associates Inc., in Casane, Maine. www.marinafires.com

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