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Guideline No. 32: Water Locations, Small Craft/Vessel And At Dockside | Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario

  • ISBN: 978-1-4249-9952-1
  • Issued: January 1997
  • Revised: June 2009
  • Content last reviewed: August 2010

Water Locations, Small Craft/Vessel And At Dockside

The following procedures are recommended for all work at dockside, water’s edge, aboard certified ships (certified by the appropriate authority in which the ship is registered) or small craft, and for transfers between vessels/small craft [(a vessel less than 12 metres (42') in length and under 15 gross tonnage (600 cu. ft) and carrying up to 12 passengers)], in, under and over the water.

Notice should be given to the Harbour Master or other port authority having jurisdiction.

All water craft operation and licensing is subject to municipal, provincial, and/or federal legislation or by-laws.

As a general consideration, all persons working in these situations need to be prepared for the possibility of accidentally entering the water. Written notification, in the form of this guideline attached to the call sheet, and an on-set safety meeting, held prior to the start of work should be provided.

An emergency evacuation plan should be developed and should consider the following:

  • If working out on the water or at a remote location, a shore location should be predetermined where to meet emergency equipment so personnel have easy access to affect a rescue or remove a victim to hospital.
  • A safety boat dedicated to remove a victim to emergency evacuation point.
  • Location of the nearest hospital and confirmation of its capacity to deal with water related emergencies such as a diving accident, and confirmation that the necessary equipment is in service.
  • A land based vehicle should be available and the operator should be familiar with the plan and know the route to the hospital in a non-emergency situation.

The greatest dangers around water are drowning and hypothermia. Most victims who drown prior to suffering the effects of hypothermia do so within six (6) minutes of immersion (see Appendix C). Therefore, a rescue plan should be in place.

At Dockside/Water's Edge

  1. All persons working on a dock should wear high visibility clothing. This is especially important if the dock is accommodating other work while filming is underway, or if heavy equipment is operating on the dock.
  2. Only qualified crew personnel, as designated by the Department Head or Production Manager, should operate equipment supplied at dockside, including outlets for steam, water or power.
  3. A spotter should accompany the camera operator at all times while filming on a dock.
  4. All persons working on a dock should have the ability to swim and/or appropriate water safety devices should be provided. Section 86 of Reg. 851 requires that an alarm system be present plus the use of life jackets or written measures and procedures to prevent a worker from drowning.

Boarding Vessels

  1. Stand clear of the boat and dock edge during docking procedures. Do not attempt to board until the watercraft is securely tied to the dock and a member of the boat crew gives the command to board.
  2. Never under any circumstances place arms, legs or any other part of the body between the boat and dock or between two boats.
  3. When boarding, only the designated boarding area or device should be used. Do not step over rails, gunwales or lifelines.
  4. Do not block access to the watercraft's cleats or emergency access hatches. If you are unsure where to stow your gear or other equipment, ask one of the watercraft crew members.

Aboard Small Craft/Vessels

  1. The Ship's Master and or authorities having jurisdiction shall be the final authority in all matters concerning safety provisions and procedures for all persons, and for the safe operation of the vessel.
  2. In the event of adverse weather conditions, the Ship's Master or authorities having jurisdiction shall be the final authority on whether the vessel will sail, or whether the vessel shall immediately return to port.
  3. Before departure, all persons aboard should be thoroughly briefed about the location of safety equipment, its use, and the procedures to be followed for abandoning the water craft, rescue procedures for a person overboard, or any threat to the integrity of the ship. The safety measures should also include those relating to the protection of limbs, the avoidance of ropes and docking lines, and the effect of movement and grouping of people on the stability of the vessel. Sufficient time for this briefing should be provided in the production schedule so that all persons may be present and not otherwise engaged in preparation or loading while the briefing is taking place.
  4. A designated person should be in possession of equipment capable of providing two-way communication with the shore. This person should be identified at the safety briefing before departure.
  5. All Production personnel should wear non-slip footwear. Outer apparel should be unencumbered by items that could catch, such as belts, straps, etc. If kit/tool/battery belts need to be worn, they should not limit the free movement of the person while boarding, aboard or departing the ship. It is important to consider the weight of these items when choosing flotation gear, as they may impair the flotation effect. In addition, when carrying equipment of any weight there should be quick release built into the equipment, and it should be in good working order. The person using such equipment should be educated in the use of quick release and be able to demonstrate its use. This is critical since the extra weight of the equipment could render the flotation device ineffective.
  6. While filming or traveling aboard a vessel, a second craft should be in the immediate vicinity as a safety boat. At least one person on either craft should be qualified in life-saving on water.
  7. A spotter should accompany a camera operator on the vessel, when the camera is not stationery.
  8. Prior to use of a temporary structure constructed on a vessel it should first be inspected by a person who is competent by training, knowledge, and experience. Where the inspection reveals a defect or condition that adversely affects the structural integrity of such, no person should use it until the defect is remedied.
  9. No person should work on a temporary structure on a ship in rain, hail or an electrical or wind storm that is likely to be hazardous to his/her safety or health, except where the work is required to remove a hazard, to rescue a person or to protect the safety of the ship.
  10. Only the minimum number of people required should be in a small craft. The total number of people aboard should never exceed the safety rating for the craft.
  11. If a small craft is being used as a camera boat or as a “picture boat”, a second craft shall be in the immediate vicinity as a safety boat. The safety boat should be in two-way communication with the ship/craft, shall have the capacity to accommodate its own crew plus the number of persons it is providing protection for, and be in two-way communication with the camera/picture boat and shore.
  12. All people working in a small craft in open water shall wear flotation garments. A variety of flotation garments are described in Appendix D.
  13. Drinking water and appropriate foods for alleviation of motion sickness should be provided upon departure.
  14. Only vessels which comply with the Canada Shipping Act Small Vessel Regulations shall be used, except when dictated by script requirements for any picture boat.
  15. The new Small Vessels Regulations made under the Canada Shipping Act is expected to come into force later this year (2009) and contains the following changes:

To operate a commercial vessel under 5 tons or approximately 8 metres or smaller, the following is required:

  1. Operator must have a M.E.D. A3 (Marine Emergency Duty Course) and a Pleasure Craft Operators Card.
  2. Crew on the vessel must have a M.E.D. A3 classification.
  3. The vessel has to be commercially registered.

To operate a vessel over 5 tons or approximately over 8 metres, the following is required:

  1. The operator must have a M.E.D. A3 classification or higher.
  2. Crew on the vessel must have a M.E.D. A3 classification.
  3. The vessel is to be commercially registered and have commercial equipment.

Transfer Between Small Craft/Vessels In Open Water

  1. Transferring between vessels/small craft while in open water is hazardous for even the most experienced of seafarers. In situations where two or more vessels are to be used for filming, it will always be preferable to have persons board at dockside, then travel and return separately to disembark at dockside.
  2. Transfers can be physically demanding and should only be undertaken by persons with the fitness and agility to carry out the activity in a safe manner.
  3. Transfers between vessels and small craft should only be undertaken with the supervision of the Ship's Master and should use a Pilot's ladder to allow safe and convenient access. Persons should have hands free to climb the ladder and be wearing an approved flotation device. Items that must be transferred shall be raised or lowered from the vessel with the higher freeboard, by rope and basket/bag.

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