Coast Guard Warns Of Risks Of Retractable Pilothouses

The United States Coast Guard issued a Marine Safety Alert on December 6 warning of the risk of retractable towboat pilothouses.

In Alert 13-19, “An Important Safety Consideration–Hazards of Retractable Pilot Houses on Towboats,” the Coast Guard issued a list of recommendations for reducing the risk associated with the crush hazard presented by the lowering of the pilothouse.

In response to a query, Bruce Davies, chief of the Investigations Department of the Coast Guard in Sector Houston-Galveston, said “The Safety Alert was the result of observations that were made during a casualty investigation and towing vessel inspections that identified potential safety issues,” but he provided no particulars.

The Coast Guard “strongly recommended” that towing vessel owners and operators who operate towboats with retractable pilothouses:

• ensure pilothouses are installed with mechanisms capable of returning the pilothouse to a fail-safe locked condition in case of a failure or malfunction;

• ensure the pilothouses are equipped to sound an audible and visual alarm during all modes of pilothouse hydraulic movement;

• instruct operators to confirm personnel are clear of the danger zone before moving the pilothouse;

• instruct all personnel to never position themselves under the retractable pilothouse, even temporarily;

• clearly mark and place physical barriers around the perimeter of the pilothouse danger zone and discourage unauthorized personnel movement under the pilothouse;

• incorporate into the Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) the company/vessel’s policy and procedures, information about the potential dangers, audible and visual alarms, and safety considerations regarding operation of the pilothouses; and,

• ensure new crewmembers receive proper training regarding the dangers and that all personnel receive annual refresher training.

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