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Archive for Warnings

Large outboard motors lined up at 2014 Tulsa Boat Show.

Large outboard motors lined up at 2014 Tulsa Boat Show.

The boating industry has been plagued with certain boat propeller safety hazards / issues for decades, some for over a century. While progress have been made on many fronts, some problems remain perpetual / eternal. Some solutions that have been applied have failed, others have wilted on the shelves for a variety of reasons.

Some Perpetual Boating Safety /Propeller Accident Scenarios

As a result of the issues described above, and more, we have been left with a number of PERPETUAL / ETERNAL boating safety / propeller safety accident scenarios including:

  • Participants in towed sports being run over by the boat propeller after they fell from the skis/board/tube/inflatable and the operator returned to pick them up
  • Unmanned outboard powered boats go in the Circle of Death
  • Children bow ride pontoon boats underway, fall between the pontoons, and are struck by the propeller
  • Operators reversing houseboats from beaches with swimmers in the water behind them
  • Boat operator and others being ejected from a bass boat
  • Bass boats strike submerged objects, their outboard motors break off, and flip into the vessel with their propeller still running
  • Inflatable PFDs not inflating or being cut and deflated by propellers if they do
  • Boaters not wearing their life jackets and if they do, they increase their likelihood of being entrapped on the propeller or being struck by the propeller in a Circle of Death accident
  • Entrapped on open boat propellers
  • Coaching, escort, and safety boats used with youth sailing, open water swimming, rowing, crewing, sculling, canoeing, wake surfing (with a sail), and other similar activities often in an amateur racing format are striking people in the water with their propellers. For example, the July 2017 Long Island New York accident
  • Those reboarding the boat at the swim ladder are sucked into the propeller
  • Divers and snorkelers being ran over by boat propellers and sometimes struck by the propeller of their own dive charter boat
  • PWC riders interacting with the wake of boat or trying to spray those on board are stuck by the propeller
  • Outboard motor starts in gear (typically involves rope started tiller steered outboards), one or more persons are ejected and struck by the propeller, can also happen with stern drives
  • Someone jumped into the water unbeknownst to the operator OR just at the moment the operator was going to reverse the boat

A quick look at the list shows several of those accident scenarios are interrelated, and most of them are tied to issues listed below (People Hazards, Water Hazards, Industry Positions, Media Reluctance, Existing Boat Designs), and all go back to the basic principles of propellers (rotating and sharp).


How the Propeller Accident Scenarios Listed Above Became Perpetual

Read More→

Engineering Tools Provide Solutions to Long Standing Boat Propeller Safety Issues

Two ostriches with heads in sand

Two ostriches with heads in sand

The boating industry repeatedly just sticks it head in the sand regarding long standing propeller safety issues. We suggest its time to go back to the drawing board on Perpetual boat propeller accident scenarios, like the Perpetual Propeller Accident Scenarios identified in a related post. Effective, practical, economical solutions need to be identified, tested, commercialized, and deployed.

Plenty new solutions remain to be discovered. Some effective, practical, economical solutions have long rejected by the boating industry. New materials and technologies are constantly placing more tools in our tool belt. One resource often overlooked, are solutions to similar problems in other industries.

We hope the tools below aid all those addressing long standing boat propeller safety issues.


The Safety Hierarchy

The Safety Hierarchy defines the sequence of steps used by product design engineers and safety professionals to prevent injuries once specific hazards are identified. In its simplest version the process is to identify the hazards of use, potential misuse, and of the environment in which the product is to be used.
Then:
     1. Design,
     2. Guard, and
     3. Warn.

When a hazard is identified, the best thing to do is to design out the hazard. By removing the hazard the danger no longer exits.

If it is not feasible to design out the hazard, the next best step is to guard against the hazard. Guards are physical barriers between people and the hazard. People that cannot come in contact with the hazard cannot be injured by it.

If guarding is not practical, the next best step is to warn of the hazard. Warnings require numerous actions of the person being warned to be effective. As a result, warnings are much less effective than designing out the hazard or the use of guards. Thus warnings are last step in the safety hierarchy as it is presented in its most basic form.

The three step Safety Hierarchy above is often presented with two more steps:

4. Training
5. Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Training and personal protective equipment are often used in manufacturing operations where someone has administrative control over the workers. Factory employees receive training /instruction, and protective equipment (such as eye shields, hearing protection, gloves, steel toed boots, respirators). Read More→

Over the years we have seen many boat propeller warnings that were not as effective as they should have been for all kinds of reasons. Over the last 40 plus years I have looked at thousands of warnings on many kinds of equipment and none of them have ever made me sick.

All that changed Friday 3 February 2017 when we walked the Tulsa Boat Show and my eyes encountered the warning below.

Super Air Nautique GS aft facing seat warning

Super Air Nautique GS aft facing seat warning – closeup port seat

Just attempting to read the warning while the boat was sitting on the trailer made me nauseous. I called Lora over to try to read it, she looked at it and turned toward me with a very perplexed look on her face. Read More→

Evinrude operators manual warning for outboard may break off and enter boat after striking submerged objects.

Evinrude operators manual warning for outboard may break off and enter boat after striking submerged objects.

Bombardier and Mercury Marine outboard operators manuals have long warned parts of or all of an outboard motor may enter the boat after striking a submerged object.

An example from the 2012 250 horsepower Evinrude E-tec manual is shown at right.

A big thanks to Bombardier Recreational Products & Vehicles (BRP) for putting their operators manuals online.

Some manufacturers sell the manuals at price point preventing many from ordering them. Bombardier does sell the manuals if you want a paper copy, but they also make them available online. Those who may have lost the manual or purchased a used boat without the manual, have free access to the outboard manuals.

We encourage all boat and marine drive manufacturers to make their operators manuals available online in the interest of boating safety. Read More→

ABYC helm warning for outboard boat

ABYC helm warning for outboard boats

Back in May 2015, American Boat & Yacht Council, ABYC, released their consolidated boat warnings. ABYC grouped several warnings together for helm and transom warnings on specific types of boats.

Earlier, we furnished a history of the development of ABYC’s consolidated warnings.

The Importance and Timeliness of This Review

Due to our specific interest in propeller safety issues, this review will focus primarily on the propeller and kill switch warnings.

We are especially concerned about these new consolidated warnings due to:

  • Problems with the consolidated warnings identified in the review below
  • ABYC’s Consolidated Warnings are on the agenda at their annual Standards Week (begins 11 January 2016). We fear many attending Standards Week will be under the false impression the consolidated warnings conform to ANSI Z535.4.
  • T-5 (ABYC’s information report on safety labels) is also on ABYC’s Standards Week agenda. We fear T-5 may be updated without addressing some of the issues relevant to the consolidated warnings.

While T-5 has many problems, issues, and challenges in its current state (2002 version), it does provide a vehicle by which information for designing boat warnings could be delivered to boat builders and others in the boating industry.

Read More→

We previously announced the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) consolidated boat warnings in our May 2015 post titled, ABYC Releases Consolidated Boat Warning Labels.

As we review those labels, one feature of several labels stands out, the excessive use of ALL CAPS.

As ABYC talks about the new labels, they repeatedly mention American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Z535.4 standard for product safety signs and labels. We have not seen ABYC specifically say the new consolidated labels are in compliance with ANSI Z535.4. However, ABYC mentions ANSI Z535.4 frequently enough we anticipate many will think the new ABYC warnings are ANSI Z535.4 compliant.

ANSI Z535.4 says the preferred format is to use mixed upper and lower case letters. They go on to say the preferred format is to only capitalize the first letter in the first word in a sentence.

ANSI Z535.4 goes on to say the use of ALL CAPS for the word message is discouraged because it is harder to read quickly than lower case type.

ANSI Z535.4 does say a single word or phrase may be emphasized by the use of ALL CAPS on occasion.

Basically, extended use of ALL CAPS makes the warning harder to read. When most people read ALL CAPS THEY MUST READ ONE WORD AT A TIME (like you just did). The use of upper and lower case letters is more inviting and can be read more quickly. Boaters are more likely to read the upper and lower case warnings than ALL CAPS warnings, especially when the warnings are lengthy like the gas outboard consolidated helm warning.

Below we compare the existing ABYC consolidated helm warning for gasoline powered outboard boats on the left with an upper and lower case version of the same warning. Click on the image below to see a much larger image to compare them side by side.

ABYC Consolidated Helm Warning ALL CAPS vs. upper and lower case comparison

ABYC Consolidated Helm Warning ALL CAPS vs. upper and lower case comparison

The example of the helm label above is but one of several. Most of the new consolidated warnings extensively use ALL CAPS.

We strongly suggest ABYC reduce the use of ALL CAPS in their consolidated boat warnings.

We all know the real intent of manufacturer’s warnings is somewhere on a sliding scale between trying to prevent accidents and trying to protect themselves in court (many would insert CYA here). We hope boat builders have not slid the scale over so far they make the warning harder to read at the expense of thinking bolded ALL CAPS would be easier to defend in court (look, the injured party did not obey our warning and we even had it in bold type in ALL CAPS).

We encourage the industry to do the right thing and at least consider reducing the use of ALL CAPS text on the consolidated warnings.

We are currently in process of reviewing the new consolidated warnings and will be posting an extensive review. While we anticipate most of our ideas will not be incorporated by ABYC, we think this one (reducing the use of ALL CAPS text) has a chance of being accepted.



This post is one of several of on the ABYC Consolidated Warnings. Links to all the posts are supplied below.


This post is the second of a three part series on the new American Boat & Yacht Council consolidated warnings for recreational boats.

We announced the new labels in May 2015 in part 1, our post titled, ABYC Releases Consolidated Boat Warning Labels.

ABYC helm warning for outboard boat

ABYC helm warning for outboard boats

History of Development

Note – much of our story of the development of ABYC’s consolidated warnings rides upon work by others. Two sets of consultants plus Professional Boat Builder magazine each have published a history of a segment of their development. USCG’s National Boating Safety Advisory Council meeting minutes also provide a portion of the history. This posts identifies and pulls those previous documents together to provide a broader overview of the project. Read More→

0 Categories : History

It has long been known that if you take you hand off the tiller or steering wheel, many outboard powered boats will circle hard to the right due to propeller torque. The boating industry has had various name for it through the yeaers. In the 1980’s some called it the “Circling Phenomenon”. Some call it a “runaway boat”. In today’s world, the industry is calling it “ongoing operation”

A boat can strike a wave or wake ejecting the operator (and typically the passengers), the boat goes into the circle of death, and keeps running over those in the water with its propeller until they get out of the way or it runs out of gas.

The same thing can happen if an operator temporarily removes their hands from the steering wheel or tiller, sometimes to grab something blowing at them, off of them, or past them. The boat swerves hard to the right, ejects the operator (and often the passengers) and begins to circle.

“Circle of Death” is a more descriptive phrase and better teaches of the hazard than “ongoing operation”.

Current boating industry warnings related to kill switches (which the industry does not call kill switches any more) do not come out and specifically teach or or warn of the Circle of Death.

I constructed a couple examples of warnings that could teach of the Circle of Death and posted them below.

Example of a Circle of Death warning

Example of a Circle of Death warning

Read More→

American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) has been working with Design Research Engineering (DRE), a consulting firm, for some time to develop a series of warnings that are grouped together (consolidated) for use on certain types of vessels (such as gasoline outboard powered open motor boats) in certain locations (helm, cabin, transom, occupant, deck). Some consolidated warnings use the signal word “Warning” and some use the signal word “Danger”.

ABYC’s May 2015 newsletter announced the release of the new consolidated warnings.

ABYC May 2015 newsletter announces consolidated warnings

ABYC May 2015 newsletter announces consolidated warnings

Read More→

2 Categories : Propeller Safety News

We attended the 2014 Tulsa Boat Show on Wednesday afternoon January 29, 2014. This post is Part 1 of our two part coverage of propeller warning labels at 2014 show. It follows up on our 2012 and 2013 posts on Propeller Warning Labels at the Tulsa Boat Show. Lora and I walked around and photographed propeller warning labels / decals. Shortly after we started walking the show, I saw Phil Keeter, President of the Tulsa Boat Show. We had a nice visit about how big the show is this year and how much press it was getting.

The variety of decals and warnings continues to amaze us year after year. Once again, Lora noted we were seeing more decals that last year. But just like last year, some boats had no warnings at all at the stern.

Last year we spun off a separate post about the popularity of rearward facing seats at the swim platform and our concerns for the safety of those using them. This year they are everywhere. We acknowledge most have a warning label telling you not to ride in them when underway or when the engine is running, but suspect the warnings are often not followed.

Our discussion of warning labels is very timely right now as the American Boat and Yachting Council (ABYC) Standards Week met in January 2014. They met in part to discuss the future of ABYC’s T-5 Safety Signs and Warnings technical information report. Some feel ABYC should do away with the standard and just use ANSI Z535-4. Others want to update T-5 which was last updated in 2002. The draft minutes on the meeting are not very specific, but it sounds like they plan to update T-5 and make it a standard.

Lets just say that T-5 in its current condition is not a very demanding technical information report (that is being nice).

Although we also saw several propeller warning labels identical to the ones we saw at the 2012 and 2013 Tulsa Boat Shows, we did not repost them. The only ones we show below are those new to our sample of propeller safety related labels. Read More→

0 Categories : Legal Shorts