Boat Builder / Boatbuilder Product Safety Program
The Beginnings of a Product Safety Program for Boat Builders / Boatbuilders
Boat builders range in size from very small to very large operations with multiple well known brands. Consolidation of the industry, explosive growth in certain segments, legacy products, international sales, industry and government regulations, product liability issues, new on water activities, increasing participation by certain ethnic groups, increasing participation by women, new boat builders entering the market, and the current COVID-19 virus issues are just a few of the reasons for boat builders to make sure they have a solid product safety program in place.
This is not professional advice. Content below is provided to stimulate thoughts and conversations among boat builders of how they can best address these changing times with their product safety program.
The Product Crisis Cycle
Far too many companies of all types operate in what is called the Product Crisis Cycle by Kenneth D’Entremont in Engineering Ethics and Design for Product Safety. McGraw-Hill Education. November 2020.
It is our hope that our discussion points above may aid at least one boatbuilder in escaping the Product Crisis Cycle.
Components of a Boat Builder Product Safety Program
Some possible elements of a product safety program are:
- Incorporating safety requirements and standards in new product specifications before the actual design begins or prototypes are built
- Conducting product safety reviews during the design process
- Conducting product safety reviews of prototypes, new, and existing products as walk arounds and during on water use
- Testing the product’s safety devices and safety systems
- Making sure the product testing department reports any safety issues discovered during testing
- Identifying product safety hazards, then apply processes such as the Product Safety Hierarchy (Design, Guard, Warn) to those hazards
- Recognizing the elephant in the room. If you asked some boat builders to assemble a team to walk around one of their power boats and conduct a safety review, many reviewers would not list open propellers as a hazard. We are not saying all propellers should have propeller guards. We are only noting the employees of many industries have been conditioned to look past obvious hazards. Do not succumb to that temptation.
- Making sure your products meet or exceed existing safety standards and regulations
- Being sure all boats conform to Federal Regulations concerning safety related issues. The U.S. Coast Guard identifies some of these regulations on their web site.
- The U.S. Coast Guard Boat Builder’s Handbook assists in complying with safety regulations
- Participating in and learning from the U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boat Builder Factory Visit Program
- Making sure the products you are building do not have manufacturing defects that could result in accidents
- Post Sale monitoring the safety of your products and responding to issues when they arise. Especially focus on severe accidents and accidents that had the potential to be severe accidents (near misses).
- Creating a database of serious accidents identified in the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Accident Report Database (BARD), involved in previous lawsuits, or recalled by employees (see our Post Sale Monitoring Chart)
- Investigating severe accidents
- Using Root Cause Analysis and similar techniques to prevent reoccurrence of serious accidents
- Effectively conducting product recalls when necessary
- Knowing what the safety issues are surrounding your product (how, when, and where the accidents are occurring) and actively seeking solutions to those issues
- Having at least one person who is the focal point of product safety efforts so people know whom to go to when issues arise
- Monitoring your competitors product safety developments
- Monitoring accidents involving your competitors products
- Properly addressing safety hazards and issues in product manuals and warnings
- Designing warnings compatible with ANSI Z535.4 Product Safety Signs and Labels standard while also monitoring ABYC T5 Safety Signs & Labels Information Report
- Making sure your users can read your on product and in manual warnings (Spanish language)
- Making sure manuals and other safety information actually gets to the consumer
- Anticipating foreseeable misuses of the product that could result in accidents
- Making sure advertising and marketing literature, materials, and videos portray proper safety practices
- Participating in boating industry safety meetings, roundtables, and organizations (NMMA, ABYC, NBSAC, NASBLA)
- Maintaining a physical or virtual folder of the design and safety history of each boat model, including any testing of safety issues or devices, product safety reviews, etc./li>
- Recognizing known challenges and strive to minimize them. For example, certain types of boats are known for certain types of accidents (pontoon boat over the bow propeller strikes, houseboat backover propeller accidents, bass boat ejection accidents, pontoon boat gate finger pinch accidents, tiller steered outboard Circle of Death accidents, etc).
- Learning from the current COVID 19 virus issues and designing vessels to better accommodate times like these where possible
- Reviewing safety issues of those maintaining, repairing, and servicing the vessel and marine drives
- Reasonably funding, staffing, and training Product Safety efforts
- Developing a means to measure and monitor performance (accident counts, serious accident counts, accidents of a certain type, accidents by model, etc). You may need more or less measures than these. Just suggesting you put some thought into developing and tracking one or more measures of product safety and adjust those measures as necessary to achieve your objectives.
The items above are by no means a complete list of elements of a boat builder product safety program. However they should provide some discussion points for less seasoned boatbuilders truly interested in having product safety as one of their core values.