Between the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia and Transport Canada, efforts are being made easier for mariners to ensure they are complying with the new federal regulations that came into effect in July 2017.
While that was the main message at the Safety at Sea: A Wave of Change seminar at the Eastern Canadian Fisheries Exposition in Yarmouth on Jan. 25, there were other useful tidbits of information shared during the seminar that could go a long way in helping mariners in emergency situations.
Safety logbooks and information sheets that outline what vessels have to carry for safety gear have been created by the safety association. Transport Canada has rolled out the orange decal program as part of its Small Vessel Compliance Program, which gives owners an easy-to-use tool that brings together all requirements for small non-pleasure vessels and provides help notes.
“I think it’s a great program,” said Robert Freake, marine safety inspector, Transport Canada. “What we’ve created is a checklist for every scenario” (vessel type, size, industry, etc…) that asks questions and gives answers in the guidance paper.
The program is voluntary, do-it-yourself, said Freake. Boat owners can enroll in the program, conduct the checklist on their vessel, making the necessary improvements to meet the requirements, then submit the report to the local Transport Canada office.
“You get the benefit of us basically vetting it for you,” said Freake, and if everything is fine, “then you get a nice big orange decal on your vessel. If we’re walking the wharf doing vessel checks and see the orange decal, it’s basically like a police check inspection verification on your vehicle. If you’ve got one, you’re good, so a lot of times we don’t bother with those,” adding vessels in the program will still be monitored. “At some point in time we will be onboard so it’s not a complete free-for-all,” he said.
Freake said there has been some uptake into the program. “There are some groups in Cape Breton and the Toney River area looking at bringing their whole fleet into it. This year we’re going to do a little more education and selling on it. We’ll be doing more monitoring on smaller vessels this year so we will be selling it that way.”
Amanda Dedrick, executive director of the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia, said her group is going to be working with a couple of fleets, guiding them through the process. “My role is to encourage people to get the form and start filling it out,” she said.
The Small Vessel Compliance Program applies to non-pleasure workboats and passenger vessels of not more than 15 gross tonnage, carrying not more than 12 passengers and small fishing vessels not more than 15 gross tonnage, used for commercial fishing. It helps owners or operators meet requirements ensuring that the vessel, its machinery and equipment comply with regulations, develop procedures for safe operation and for emergencies and ensuring that crew and passengers receive safety training. Participants receive a blue (passenger) or orange decal to display on their vessel, showing it is enrolled in the program.
“There’s a shift happening in our fishing industry here in Nova Scotia, probably even worldwide for that matter,” said Dedrick. “There’s a shift happening in our culture. Some of the regulations have helped guide that. People are thinking more about safety. Seven fatalities last year was not a good report card but overall the industry has made some big changes,” adding that Workers Compensation (WCB) statistics for accidents and incidents have come down 40 per cent in the last three years, representing $19 million in premiums saved for the Nova Scotia fishing fleet.
Dr. John Ross from Praxes Medical Group also presented at the seminar. The Praxes Medical Group connects with mariners with emergency medical situations through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC).
Ross said looking back over the past six years, the number of trauma calls from the JRCC number “has gradually gone down over time. Raising the bar safety-wise seems to be working. The bad news is our call volume is going to continue to go up” with an aging workforce and people living with chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
Trauma-wise hand injuries and back injuries are the sort of things that Praxes gets called about quite commonly, said Ross. “Heart-related chest pains are getting more common every year, shortness of breath, respiratory problems, strokes…, suggesting mariners can easily upgrade their first aid kits by adding a bottle of chewable aspirins, which reduces the risk of death by about half in heart attack cases, an EpiPen for allergic reactions and naloxone kits which is a reversal agent for morphine and related opioid overdoses.”
An automatic blood pressure cuff and finger O2 stat monitor would also be handy to have aboard, said Ross. Both are relatively inexpensive. “Instead of calling us and saying he looks bad boy, if you can tell us his blood pressure, heart rate and O2 stats,” it goes a long way in being able to help.