Thankfully, boaters have become more aware of on the water risks and the ways to mitigate and manage them – life jackets, dead man cords, tethers, alcohol awareness, even sun protection. Unfortunately, there’s less awareness of hazards that we face when we’re working on and near boats.
#1 Solvents and volatiles. It seems like every three days I get an email about a yard fire somewhere, often caused by welding near flammables. You might not be doing much welding, but boat prep has plenty of volatiles and flammables that can cause problems. A solvent-soaked rag too near a spark or even in an enclosed spaced can go up in an instant. It scares me to think of what consequences I might get from years of using epoxy, acetone, and other nasty stuff without adequate skin protection.
#2 Airborne contaminants. Wearing a good mask and eye protection are easy ways to mitigate exposure to airborne particles from sanding and cutting. It’s way too easy to blow it off, but a lot of the materials we work with on boats are no good at all for your lungs and eyes.
#3 Ladders. My dad once fractured a vertebra falling off an unsecured ladder climbing down from his boat. Whenever you use a ladder, make sure the ladder itself is in good condition, on secure footing, secured to the boat, and long enough to get where you need to get.
#4 Electrical. I was recently helping a friend change the steering chain and cable on his older boat when the steering cable contacted a cracked spot in the housing on a battery cable. I can’t tell you what would have happened if either of us had been holding the cable, but with enough energy going through it to weld the two wires together, I don’t particularly want to consider it either.
#5 Overhead risks. How often do you see boats on unsecured jackstands, masts stored on deck with the forestay dangling down ready to whack someone in the face, tools and varnish cans kicked over ready to land on someone’s head – in the rush of getting ready for launch, it’s way too easy to temporarily create a situation that can cause real damage to yourself or others.
The excitement and rush of getting on the water often has us inadvertently creating hazards that are easily avoided.