Avoiding this is smart for all parties concerned. It’s smart for you because you are still intact and functioning. And it is smart for the boat owner because he isn’t being hauled into court, where the damages can be notable. The Web site for one group of attorneys who obviously go after this type of case says they won a decision for $2.5 million for a fisherman who lost a hand because a machine didn’t have the proper guard on it.
I’m betting the fisherman would rather have his hand. And I’m betting the guy who started the engine on a boat a few years ago in Kodiak wishes he hadn’t. A diver was working on the boat’s prop. He was killed.
It happened again at the end of March on the factory trawler Ocean Peace, which was near Adak, an island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain, 450 miles west of Dutch Harbor. Joemar Lontoc was cleaning a fish-processing machine. When the machine was turned on, he almost lost a hand and had to be airlifted off the boat.
The way to avoid this kind of accident is not complicated: First, shut off all power to whatever it is you are working on; second, make sure everyone on the boat knows power isn’t to be activated to that piece of equipment.
The best way to do this is with a Lockout/Tagout program. As the name says, you put a lock on the power source to physically prevent someone from operating a switch, key or lever. The tag that accompanies the lock has your name on it and when the power was shut off.
Jennifer Lincoln with NIOSH in Anchorage, Alaska, and Jensen Maritime Consultants in Seattle, Wash., developed a handout explaining how Lockout/Tagout works.