For many years now we have acknowledged that professional powerboat users face an increased risk from injuries associated with the constant impacts they receive during their daily activities. It is not hard to imagine that constantly driving a rigid hull through a choppy sea will result in some uncomfortable moments, but we continue to ignore the issue.
The term 'Professional' is important. If someone in their spare time wants to drive at maximum speed, exposing them to a risk of injury, then so be it. But the Professional user is not working for fun. They are out in all weathers using the boat as a tool to get them from A to B or to perform tasks. They should be protected from harm the same as a worker in any other industry.
There are plenty of parallels that could be drawn from other professions. If a delivery driver or mail-man reported to his management that he wasn't able to reach a remote farm without risking a back injury on the un-made road, no one would dream of telling him to try anyway. Unless they provided him with a better vehicle suited to the terrain there would be a public outcry, Union strikes and court cases.
A company has the responsibility to protect its workers, overriding the employees enthusiasm if required. We would not let a young worker go to sea without a life jacket, even if they maintained that they were a champion swimmer, so why do we continue to let powerboat operators risk serious injury and turn a blind eye towards it?
An employer's duty of care requires them to ensure that all passengers and crew are safe and it is in their interests to monitor the situation not only from a health and safety perspective, but also to expose any driving habits or situations that may be putting other staff at risk. A crew member or passenger with an injury caused by an overzealous or unlucky skipper could result in a financial loss for the company and a subsequent investigation by the relevant Safety Executive and insurers.
With boats becoming faster and personnel resources reduced, there is even more pressure on professional marine operators to push the limits of their craft and crew. Unless they can invest in more boats and staff, the ability to monitor the health of their workers is paramount. Impact exposure and WBV are not going away and ignoring them will increase the chance of human injury or commercial liability. So it should be addressed now before it is too late!
James Glover CEng, MIMechE, MRINA is the Technical Director of Dyena. He is a naval architect and design engineer with over 15 years experience in automotive, motorsport and high speed marine craft design.