Boys on Buoys
In recent years the marine leisure industry has grown significantly. Satellite navigation systems, electronic chart systems and integrated navigation systems are commonplace but are not always understood to the degree of accuracy provided and the possible vulnerabilities. The widespread availability of GNSS receivers and smart phone apps is encouraging mariners to navigate closer inshore or closer to dangers sometimes doing so in conditions of darkness and reduced visibility where they would not have previously ventured.
Alongside numerous other considerations, this demonstrates why the reliance on traditional aids to navigations remains great. Trinity House has 442 buoys currently at sea with 201 in the sea area from Sizewell to Shoreham alone. This includes the Dover Straits which are some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Each of these buoys receives an annual (or in a few cases bi-ennial) inspection where they buoy and moorings is lifted to deck in its entirety.
The historical method of getting a buoy out of the water onto the deck was the most difficult and dangerous part of the job and needed two crewman prepared to leap onto the buoy. This was known as buoy jumping and required quick and nimble features.
The Captain brought the ship alongside the buoy and used the rudder and bow thruster to keep alongside whilst the transfer took place. The crewmen wearing specialist dry suits, hard hat, safety boots and lifejacket would look up at the Master for clearance before making the jump. If the weather was poor, this was often with pleading eyes!
This process was necessary for the initial hook-in of buoys and visual checks of the lifting lugs, security of superstructure and fittings were always carried out prior to men boarding the buoy.
This process had obvious areas of concern with potential for buoy jumpers to fall into the sea or to be injured by snatching wire during the initial lift.
Health and Safety is of vital importance to Trinity House. Our employees have to work in a hazardous environment such that we maintain the highest standards to ensure that risk to personnel is minimised. Until 2015, RoSPA would carry out periodic audits of our Health and Safety System against their Quality Safety Audit (QSA) System. This biennial audit has seen Trinity House achieve the highest level available, Level 5 Diamond Award complying with the requirements of HSG65. In 2015, Trinity House moved to OHSAS18001: 2007 and subsequently to ISO 45001, the standard to which we currently hold certification.
The Fair Safety Culture of Trinity House means that we relentlessly strive to find new ways to keep ourselves, colleagues, contractors and seafarers safe. The risks associated with the buoy jumping process were recognised and Trinity House worked to develop an alternative method which controlled this risk.
A tool known as a ‘happy hooker’ is used from the cut out on deck to run appropriate sized listing strops through forward most accessible buoy lifting lugs then connect to the crane. Using steadying rope, the fall hook is pulled forward. The Master gives express permission before the happy hooker / round sling process commences.
Ensuring the crane head is directly over the buoy, the weight is slowly taken and the buoy lifted from the water. The strops are held clear of protrusions on the buoy superstructure as the weight comes on and enables a safe lift to deck.
This standard operating change supports the Trinity House Fair Safety Culture and our Lifesaver Principles. Across the service, Health & Safety is seen in a positive light and the culture is supportive with all staff taking personal responsibility.