Working On Boat/Over Water

The following are standard emergency procedures to be followed in the event of hazards occurring, as identified in the Job Hazard Analysis for Boat Operation and Working Over Water.


·         Stop engine

·         Call field personnel to established emergency station

·         Assess need to call Coast Guard and issue a Pan Pan

·         Inspect vessel for damages, check engine and fuel for damage, leakage

·         Sound around vessel for depths and obstructions

·         Prepare plan to refloat - consider tide, extent of damages, can vessel be lightened, will vessel be stranded until next high tide, is there alternative assistance available, is inclement weather a concern

·         Check area for other vessels, and be ready to notify others if they approach

Engine Failure

·         Use rudder and bow thrusters if available to navigate

·         Anchor if in shallow water

·         Assess need to call Coast Guard and issue a Pan Pan


·         Stop field operations and call field personnel to established emergency station

·         Close all ventilation, watertight doors

·         Switch on deck lights

·         Don heavy duty work gloves and grab correct extinguisher for type of fire you are fighting

o Class A – combustibles, sold materials

o Class B – combustible liquids and fuels

o Class C – electrical

·         Send constant flow of extinguishing agent at base of the flames; if you stop you may reintroduce oxygen

·         Never turn your back on the fire

·         Assess need to call Coast Guard and issue a Pan Pan or May Day

Collision/Imminent Collision

·         Maneuver vessel to minimize effects of collision

·         Stop engine or reverse if possible

·         Close all watertight doors, hatches, ports, windows

·         Switch on deck lights

·         Prepare radio dispatch with all necessary information

·         Once the collision has occurred assess the damage, check all bilges and engine and tanks

·         If repairs are possible, attempt to do so

·         If danger of sinking, abandon ship, make appropriate distress signals (radio, flares) – see Abandoning Ship below


Man Overboard

·         Call MAN OVERBOARD to alert vessel operator and all field personnel

·         Throw floating, buoyant object, preferably a lifebuoy with light (or smoke signal if available if dark) into water as close to victim as possible

·         Assign one field personnel to keep constant watch over the victim’s location

·         Turn vessel to recover the victim; preferably approach in upwind direction

·         Plan to pick up victim on lee side of the vessel

·         Vessel operator takes action to avoid running over victim, and put vessel in neutral before arriving at victim

·         Organize field personnel to provide different functions and prepare to treat victim (prepare appliance to retrieve victim, arrange area with warm blankets and liquids for victim)

·         Be ready to radio vessel and victim’s position in case further assistance is required

Abandoning Ship

·         This is the last extreme. Vessel operator to yell really loud, the order to abandon ship

·         Maintain calm and control over all aboard

·         Take extra supplies and water, hand held radios, EPIRBs and any other safety and survival equipment that time allows (such as personal survival kit – see list below)

·         Get clear of ship as quickly as possible in case it is sinking

·         Keep your body in fetal position to retain the heat in your head, armpits and groin

·         Huddle with others to keep in body warmth and raise morale

·         Never try to swim to shore as the surrounding water quickly depletes your body warmth and exhaustion occurs quickly when trying to swim against currents and wind/waves

·         Remain with any flotsam or buoys to make it easier for Search and Rescue to locate you

·         Cold water shock:

o Stage 1: first 3 to 5 minutes you will gasp for breath and then experience uncontrollable hyperventilation which can cause dizziness, confusion, and muscle spasm; there is dramatic rise in heart rate and blood pressure

o Stage 2: 3 to 30 minutes your limbs will cool and the ability of muscles to contract, grip strength and manual dexterity all deteriorate quickly; the body literally becomes numb with cold and it is difficult if not impossible at this stage to locate and don a PFD

o Stage 3: a drop in body temperature from 37C to 35C leads to serious declines in physical and mental abilities, which may interfere with rescue and will lead to hypothermia (when your body loses heat faster than it can generate it)

Without a PFD already on, a person will likely die within the first two stages; a person with a PFD on, however, can survive for one to two hours despite hypothermia setting in.


Following a Pre-Departure Safety Checklist will help prevent marine emergencies.

Pre-Departure Safety Checklist

1.      Determine what the weather forecast is for the day and whether the conditions match the forecast.

2.      Map out route for the day and any local hazards or boating restrictions that you may encounter on route.

3.      Ensure all navigation equipment is functioning and that you have updated charts of the area onboard.

4.      Ensure a sail plan is prepared and submitted to a responsible person (e.g., project manager, Harbour Master, Canadian Coast Guard).

5.      Ensure proper number and sizes of lifejackets are onboard (1 per person).

6.      Ensure all safety gear is functional.

7.      Ensure that the VHF radio and/or the portable VHF radio is functioning (conduct a radio check if necessary, conduct check with another vessel or on a Canadian Coast Guard working station (e.g., Ch 04A), do not request check on Ch 16).

8.      Ensure navigational lights are working.

9.      Ensure first aid kit is onboard.

10.  Ensure an adequate tool box with spare parts is onboard.

11.  Check batteries have no corrosion around terminals and that their fluid levels are topped up (use Distilled Water).

12.  Check oil reserve and fill if necessary.

13.  Look for any leaks in fuel lines.

14.  Make sure there is sufficient fuel (check fuel gauge).


Personal Survival Kit:

·         Wool cap and mitts

·         Space blanket

·         Flares, smoke flares

·         Whistle and signal mirror

·         Strobe light

·         Flashlight, head lamp

·         Handheld VHF and EPIRB

·         Extra water and food rations

·         First aid kit

·         Knife

·         Waterproof matches, lighter or firestarter, candles

·         Cord