Safety, Risk Assessment, Self-Care Take Center Stage At AWO Webinar

Two barge industry compliance leaders, Mark Sawyer and Jo Ann Salyers, presented COVID-19 safety and risk assessment tips as part of an American Waterways Operators’ “Virtual Summer of Safety” video July 28. The events are being organized and presented by AWO’s Safety Leadership Advisory Panel.

Sawyer is director of vessel compliance and strategic engagement for the marine transportation division of Marathon Petroleum, which operates 120 terminals and whose marine division operates 24 towing vessels and 300 tank barges.

Sawyer spoke about how Marathon has benefitted from course compliance modules developed by the Seamen’s Church Institute in conjunction with Turning Technologies. Marathon worked closely with SCI to build a Towing Safety Management System (TSMS) compliance module for towing officers. The program began in 2018 and the company has completed 50 compliance assessments so far.

Captains and pilots who take the module and its tests are rated highly effective, effective or not effective based on their scores.

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Sawyer also discussed the company’s use of a risk assessment tool for reporting incidents to the Coast Guard. It is used whenever a system failure is detected aboard a vessel. The vessel performs a self-assessment of risk and reports the results to the Coast Guard, which uses them to help decide whether or not to issue a permit to proceed (without tow). He called the Coast Guard’s willingness to consider the results of this tool a “huge step forward” for industry.

“How you describe the risk is important,” said Sawyer, “and you have to detail the steps you’ve taken to mitigate that risk.” He said the company used the tool twice in the past year, “and both times it went very well.”

Jo Ann Salyers, founder and principal of Salyers Solutions, with more than 30 years of experience in the safety, training and risk management areas of the maritime industry, presented on how to capture and document lessons learned from “near misses.” Each incident should go through four stages, she said: reporting, investigation, risk assessment, and corrective action.

Salyers used the seemingly trivial incident of a near-slip and fall on a loose rug (which she experienced) aboard a vessel. In reality, slips and falls are one of the most common causes of injuries aboard vessels. An investigation might find that the rug had no rubberized or non-skid backing and was brought on board by an employee; a risk assessment would conclude that it presented a non-tolerable level of risk; and corrective actions would involve not only removing but destroying any such rugs (to keep them from being rescued from the trash); ordering new rugs with non-skid backs if required; and writing up a prohibition of bringing any other kind aboard in the future.

The same framework applies to near-misses from COVID-19 or any other hazardous condition. Salyers said they should be incorporated into a company’s TSMS, but added it’s not required that the crew memorize these; they only need to know where to find them. “Keep it simple!” she said. “A TSMS must be cohesive and understandable, not just a set of policies and procedures.”

Finally, chaplains Tom Rhoades and Bernadette St. Amand of the Seamen’s Church Institute spoke about the SCI’s use of a program called Living Compass to form “wellness groups” to help boat crews build resiliency.

The webinar will be made available on the AWO website.