The Research Vessel Operator’s Council Safety Training Manual is available in the ship’s library. This concise but thorough primer on seagoing safety should be considered “required reading”.
Fire and boat drills are held once a week and, as basic training in survival, are not to be taken lightly. Science party members are usually notified in advance to avoid disruption of the program. Anyone who must continue working may be excused by prior arrangement with the Master through the Chief Scientist.
When an emergency signal is given, don life jackets, long-sleeved garments, and a hat or other head covering, and report to the station shown on the station card next to your bunk. (Learn this when you first come aboard ship.) During the drill, a ship’s officer will conduct a survival suit demonstration.
While on board ship, keep in mind that you may be called upon without warning to help out during your off-watch period, and an emergency can occur at any time.
Boat Drill (Abandon Ship)
The signal for abandon ship is seven or more short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship’s whistle and general alarm. When this signal is heard, report to your designated life raft station. There the Mate in charge will explain the procedures for launching and embarking into the life rafts. The rafts will not be launched during a drill.
Fire and Emergency Drills
The signal is one long blast on the ship’s whistle and general alarm bell, lasting for ten seconds or more. During this drill, members of the science party muster in the designated area. Attendance will be taken and reported to the bridge.
If someone falls overboard, throw a life-ring into the water towards the person. Keep your eye on the person at all times and point towards the person. Shout “MAN OVERBOARD, STARBOARD (or PORT),” and call the bridge on the sound powered phone or squawk box to inform them without losing sight of the person if possible. If you hear someone hail "Man Overboard," pass the word to the bridge.
Good Safety Habits
It is strongly recommended that you let someone know where you will be at all times. The disappearance of someone for several hours can be cause for major alarm which is easily avoided by telling your cabinmate or co-worker that you plan to be working in the darkroom alone or are going to be given a tour of the engine room. Do not go out on the deck alone in rough weather or at night. Rough seas and/or darkness make it almost impossible to find someone who has fallen over the side. Do not enter the bow chamber or transducer wells without permission from the bridge, and inform the bridge when you leave.
Sensible clothing is a part of good safety habits. Wear shoes with non-skid soles, especially on deck. Sandals of any kind are not safe. Be sure to wear safety-toe shoes if you are working on deck with heavy gear. NEVER go barefoot. Loose or floppy clothing, long hair, and jewelry can become caught in machinery and may result in injury. Life jackets and hard hats are required for personnel working around moving loads and overboard/recovery operations.
Wear a hat and sunglasses (use sunblock) if you are sensitive to the sun. Its effects are more intense at sea. Have medication for seasickness if you suspect you may be troubled this way. If you are certain of it, start taking the medication twenty-four hours before the ship leaves the dock. Caution to women -- certain classes of these medications should not be taken during pregnancy. Consult with your doctor.
The Chief Mate is placed in charge of the ship’s hospital and general medical care by the Master. Generally, the ship’s normal crew have only received basic training in health and medical matters. If you can anticipate the possibility of having a medical problem, or if you are dependent upon a specific medication, discuss this with the Mate before the cruise. S/He may deem it wise to stock a spare quantity of any medication(s) necessary to your basic good health. In the event of major medical emergencies, the ships will obtain advice via the radio medical advisory service from shore stations or seek assistance from nearby ships with a doctor on board. Evacuation for medical care to shore or another ship’s hospital will be undertaken if indicated.
Be aware that lines and wires can part under tension. Do not stand under or near a line or wire while it is under a heavy strain. STAY CLEAR. Never step inside the bight (loop) of a line or wire. Respond immediately to directions from the Mates or Bos’n. They are trying to preserve the safety of all, not prevent you from going somewhere. When a crane is in operation, be aware of the location of its load at all times and stay out from underneath. If you are working on deck while a crane is in operation, you are required to wear safety hard hat. When working at or near the side of the ship or stern, safety work-vests must be worn. These are provided by the ship.
The disposal of plastics in any form is prohibited on the waterways of the world. The ship’s waste management procedures are posted. Learn the procedures and follow them.
Hazardous Material Procedures
Storage containers should be marked, labeled, and stored in a ventilated and protected area under the supervision of the Chief Scientist with the knowledge and approval of the Master. The labeling must include the common or trade name, the nature of the hazard (flammable, carcinogenic, etc.), and the manufacturer’s name, address, and telephone number. Consideration should be given to transporting and storing hazardous materials, normally shipped in glass containers, in special, non-breakable containers, or where glass is a necessity PVC coated bottles. Secondary containment should be utilized when moving breakable containers around the vessel. These are available from laboratory supply companies.
Compressed gases should be securely held to solid ship structure. Metal brackets or positive cargo straps should be used to hold them in place. Ropes or other similar lashings must be avoided. All gas cylinders must have their safety cap in place unless they are in use with a regulator. No cylinder should be moved without the cap in place
Working quantities only should be stored in the laboratory. A reasonable working quantity would be a one-day supply, considering the hazard posed by the material. Containers should be marked with the material's chemical and common names, type and classification. Bench top holders should be provided to restrain the container when in the laboratory.
Incompatible materials must not be stored together. A close review of the Material Safety Data Sheets will help to determine if two materials are incompatible.
Chemical Spill Response
The scientific party will be the first to realize that a spill has occurred. It is vitally important that the ship be immediately alerted when this happens even if the spill is considered minor. The science party and crew must work together to minimize the impact of the spill on the vessel. The science party will have the expertise in applying the proper neutralizing agents and final mopping up of the spilled material.
During the safety briefing at the beginning of the cruise the crew member giving the briefing will point out eye wash stations and the location of the deluge shower. All science party members should make note of these facilities as well as the locations of fire extinguishers liberally placed throughout the laboratory area
Radioactive Material Procedures
Typically radioactive material is confined to an Isotope Lab. The Lab is usually a 20ft laboratory van to isolate the radioactive material from the rest of the vessel for contamination issues. Consideration can be made for the use of radioactive material outside of the Isotope Lab with advance arrangement.
Swipe tests are required before any work is done, during the cruise and then a final swipe test at the end of the cruise. A Liquid Scintillation counter is provided specifically for this purpose. The final swipe test report should be given to the Chief Mate and a copy kept for your records. A copy of your report will be requested by the Marine Resource Coordinator.
Any major spills or accidents involving radionuclides must be reported immediately to the Chief Scientist, the Master or designated licensed officer, and the WHOI Radiation Safety Officer (work phone: (508 289-2242). Upon completion of the cruise or fieldwork, the Authorized User must submit a detailed report of the incident to the WHOI RSO that includes the corrective measures taken.
The Steward’s Department provides food, linen, and other items basic to your comfort aboard. (Their job can be trying. Be understanding and cooperative.)
Serving hours for meals vary per vessel. They are typically posted in the galley. In port, meal hours may be different (check with the Steward). Do not invite guests aboard for a meal without first clearing with the Master or Mate on watch, as well as the Steward.
Each of Woods Hole’s ships has a common mess for both crew and science party. Pants or shorts, buttoned shirts or T-shirts (not undershirts), and shoes are required, and hats are to be removed before entering a messdeck at mealtime. If some aspect of the scientific program will make you late for a meal, be sure to notify the Steward in advance.
Treat members of the Steward’s Department with consideration. Be on time for meals, but do not be impatient when coincidence brings all hands to the table at the same moment and service is temporarily slowed. Stay clear when the Mess Attendant is cleaning the messdeck. When you are eating, return your plates and silverware quickly, even if you plan to linger and talk. When the ship is in port, plan to eat as early as possible. Members of the Steward’s Department will want to go ashore too and must first get their clean-up work done. Leave the night lunch for those working late watches. Clean up after your own night lunches and any mess you make. Loading food stores in port is an all-hands job; pitch in and help.
If you have any specific dietary/food allergy needs it is a good idea to discuss this with the steward as soon as you arrive aboard.
Clean linen is provided at the beginning of cruises and all are responsible for changing their own bunks and keeping their rooms clean. Soiled linen is left at a designated place in laundry bags at the end of the cruise.
Clothes washers and dryers are available for everyone’s use, with soap and bleach supplied. Fresh water should always be used sparingly. Do not put sneakers in the dryers. Service-style showers are good practice: wet yourself, turn off the shower and soap down, then rinse. Do not leave faucets dripping. Use fresh water sparingly in the laboratories as well.
You must provide all items for your personal use during the cruise with the exception of linen, soap, and food.
Video and DVD movies are aboard ship for general entertainment. A wide variety of reading material is available in the ship's library. The library also contains reference books commonly used by oceanographers and engineers.
Some form of exercise equipment is available on all WHOI ships. This equipment was purchased by the ship’s crew, so please care for it as though it were your own and return the gear to a secure position when you have finished your activity.
Tips for Going to Sea
Is it your first time going to sea? Click on this link to find tips for going to seathat have been put together based upon the many years of seagoing personnel at the Institution.