PropellerSafety.com

Archive for Our Thoughts on Propeller Safety Topics

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→

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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→

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To: Fell Marine
From: PropellerSafety.com
15 February 2017

We were thrilled to see your entry into the wireless lanyard / kill switch market in the United States.
We recently posted coverage of your MOB+ device after which I dropped you an email asking you contact us after the Miami International Boat Show in response to a few questions we had. My email quickly received an automatic response and yeterday we were contacted by a gentleman in Norway who included a couple others in the email conversation, including a gentleman in the U.S. The email was very informative and inviting to learn more about your product.

MOB+ image from Fell Marine web site

MOB+ image from Fell Marine web site

We will visit with you after the boat show about our questions specific to MOB+, but thought of several more general topics related to kill switches we would like to share with you that might be of interest to others as well. So I posted this portion of my conversation with you here as an open letter on the topic.

Much of the content of this email will come from some of our previous posts on these topics. Read More→

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A flurry of boat boat propeller accidents in Ocean City, Maryland has many talking about the recent cluster of accidents.

As we scanned the news this morning (24 August 2016) our eyes were drawn to a DelmarvaNow headline, “In Ocean City, Propeller Accidents Chop Up Vacations”. DelmarvaNow is part of the USAToday media network. DelmarvaNow is named for a large peninsula that includes most of Delaware and parts of Virginia and Maryland.

Original DelmarvaNow headline

Original DelmarvaNow headline

Boating communities, like Ocean City, have long been known for minimal coverage of boating accidents because such coverage can drive boaters and tourists away (AND ADVERTISERS with connections to those activities which is most of them in a resort community).

Our observations, some of which have been documented, are the U.S. media fails to cover many fatal boating accidents, only locally covers those they do, and uses much tamer (less shocking) headlines and photos than the rest of the world. Read More→

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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.

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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.


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Our review of unsafe boating ads, commercials, and websites found a startling number of Yamaha and Yamaha Outboard Distributor websites and publications portraying unsafe boating practices and behaviors, especially outside the United States.

While some think we should not intervene outside our borders, in today’s society there are no borders. The same ads and materials presented around the world are viewable worldwide via the Internet.

Before someone gets after us saying it is not illegal to participate in many of the actions or behaviors portrayed in these ads in much of the U.S., or in much of the rest of the world. We are not talking about legalities, we are talking about it being inappropriate for boat and marine drive manufacturers to be encouraging such practices and behaviors.

Some of the Yamaha ads and web site images we found are reproduced below. We welcome comments from Yamaha explaining how these practices are really not unsafe or how they plan to prevent such ads from appearing in the future. Read More→

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The boating industry, those providing accessories to boats, those selling accessories and supplies to boaters, beer companies, the excursion tour boat industry, and others have a history of showing unsafe boating practices and behaviors in their advertisements, commercials, web sites, printed materials, trade show booths, and retail displays. Often, the unsafe practices and behaviors portrayed could lead to boat propeller injuries.

We are used to seeing the industry try to defeat propeller cases in court by claiming these practices are unsafe and the injured party assumed the risk when they did this or that. Its going to get harder for the industry to claim that, when the same practices are shown in their commercials.

Some examples U.S. and international commercials featuring unsafe boating practices are presented and briefly discussed below. Read More→

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As part of our continued efforts to encourage the boating industry to address the boating safety hazard of boat outboard motors striking submerged objects and flipping into boats, we published a list of approaches, methods, and technologies used by others, or that appear potentially applicable to this problem.

The paper itself is about a 65 page pdf document titled:

Approaches to Prevent Outboard Motors From Flipping Into Boats After Striking Submerged Objects. Read More→

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As our list of outboard motors striking submerged objects and flipping into boats continues to grow, and we see no response, we thought we would provide a chart of methods and technologies that have been proposed to help prevent the problem, mitigate the injuries, and speed the recovery of survivors.

We hope this chart will stimulate discussion, encourage action, and help prevent some of these accidents in the future.

The chart is a very large pdf chart, best viewed on a very large monitor. It shows the various time intervals across the top and the groups that could assist down the left side. The matrix is then completed by filling in what each group or entity could do during each time interval to help prevent and mitigate injuries and fatalities from these accidents. Read More→

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