In this article, I’d like to address some marina safety equipment and policies for the customers and guests who use your marina. While not an inclusive list, the equipment and policies should become part of the management practices at your marina.
It used to be a common sight to watch boaters and their guests jump off the back of the boats and swim in the marina basin. Today, we are aware of the dangers of swimming within the marina basin. Those dangers range from stray electricity, propeller injuries, underwater currents, and hidden submerged objects. I recommend that each marina adopt a “No Swimming” policy within the marina basin and post signage to that effect.
In my travels, I have observed marinas with safety/rescue ladders ranging from one at each slip to ones without a single ladder within the entire marina. The intent of these ladders is not to provide access to our customers, but a way to safety egress from the water or to provide safe access to/from a boat. There are challenges to making sure a person who has fallen in the water can get out safely or helping a boater who needs get off a boat. Those challenges include: water level fluctuations; water currents; cold water temperatures; accidents/injuries; and vertical bulkheads. Review the risks at your marina, create a plan to determine the placement and number of safety/rescue ladders needed.
If someone falls in the water and that person has trouble swimming (as a non-swimmer, has an injury or water conditions) and he is unable to safely reach a safety/rescue ladder, how would you assist him out in getting out of the water? Having a life ring readily available could be your answer. The life ring is easy to throw and easy to retrieve and should be part of your overall safety policy.
The life rings need to be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as Type IV personal flotation device. Make sure that adequate line is attached to the life ring for you to pull in the person in the water or in case you need to throw the life ring again. I recommend that you train your employees on an annual basis in the use of life rings. Again, review the risks at your marina, and create a plan to determine the placement and number of life rings needed.
As a frequent visitor to many marinas, I can’t help but noticed the tripping hazards associated with a marina. Noticeable tripping hazards at a marina are: transition points (where a ramp meets the pier); unmarked curbs; cleats that are poorly placed; customer lines, hoses or electrical cords laying on or across the dock; deck boards that have broken free on one end of the board; and screws or nails that have popped up.
Take a walk through your marina, identify these tripping hazards and others which are not mentioned in this article and create an action plan to address the tripping hazards. Some of these tripping hazards could reappear on a frequent basis. Conducting a dockwalk on a daily basis will give you the opportunity to identify and correct these hazards before an incident or injury occurs.
Whether it’s due to rain, ice, frost, the type of deck material used or the incline of a ramp, the decks of our walkways and ramps can become slippery. In the northern states, we are accustomed to seeing signs posted on the highway stating “BRIDGE ICES BEFORE ROAD”. The same is true at marinas. The decks of our docks and ramps freeze before shoreside walkways. Your marina needs to address the slippery decks with proper signage, using materials that are resilient to ice, or addressing the slippery surface, such as the removal of snow from the dock.
Marinas are more frequently providing first aid supplies, equipment and training their employees to handle first aid issues. Signage near the public and private phones at your marina should have the phone number posted for the first responders to your marina. Work with the first responders in your area as you prepare a written first aid safety plan for your marina.
Today, more and more marinas have Automated External Defibrillator’s (AED’s) located at the ship’s store, the fuel pier, or in the Dockmaster’s office. Create a dialogue with the First responders in your area on what you should include in your first aid plan: training for your employees; supplies to keep available; and/or equipment to have on-site.
Each marina has an obligation and a supervisory responsibility to evaluate and address safety issues or risks at their marina. It is important to understand the liability associated with safety issues, and if you neglect these and other safety issues, your insurance may not cover you, if there is an accident due to your negligence. Invite your insurance company to walk through your marina with you to help identify what those risks may potentially be. Then create and implement your safety plan.