With the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast being hit by wave after wave of record-smashing snowfall and cold like we haven’t seen in a long time, the sight of deckhands and tankermen slip-sliding away has become regular “entertainment” once again. Slips, trips and falls almost always lead the list of safety hazards that mariners face. Decks can get dangerously icy, covered in snow, or both, and there’s only so much that can be done about it. Large manned barges have more surface area to clear than small barges, but still only have a two-man crew. It may be impossible to stay ahead of all of it no matter how much shoveling and salting you do. The deck areas over the fore and after peaks of tank barges can be particularly hazardous and even the cargo heating systems of the black oil barges, which will often keep the rest of the decks reasonably clear, won’t help you in those areas. In the photo below the ice has formed a solid dam around the bow and you’d need a pick-axe to get through it. That’s what happens when you have to push loaded barges through a frozen Hudson River in the middle of winter. So it goes…..
So why take a chance? Why risk a hard fall on deck or, worse still, down onto a dock or even over the side? It just doesn’t make any sense when there’s an affordable and convenient way to avoid that risk. Of course, you could go out and buy yourself a sturdy, sure-footed yak and then train it to handle lines and pump cargo. But they’re kind of big, tend to suffer from extreme flatulence, wouldn’t do too well living at sea level, couldn’t get a TWIC, and there would be personal-hygiene issues worse than anything you’ve ever dealt with before. There has to be a better way.
Enter Yaktrax Pro…..
…..which, for a lousy $30.00 dollars (and usually less than that from the retailers), can save you from an unexpected, dangerous and possibly very-costly fall. There should be no safety issues with using them on the decks of tank barges as the metal coils are made of stainless steel, which makes them non-sparking and non-magnetic. The instep straps provide extra lateral stability by keeping them centered under and secure on your feet. They are very lightweight, fold in half easily, and can be carried in a pocket of your coat. Unlike carbide steel spikes they won’t damage the decks, even if worn into your living quarters, and allow you to walk normally when not on snow or ice. There’s simply no good reason not to have them.
I’m aware that some people are so cheap that they would never spend the money on something like this, and that is just plain stupid. If you fall and get hurt what would these be worth to you or your family then? Although Maintenance and Cure should take care of the medical bills there are still the potential lost days of work, loss of safety bonuses, and possible long-term medical issues depending on the nature of the injury or injuries sustained. Disability insurance, if you have it, sometimes doesn’t work the way that you hope it would. Beyond that, a fall over the side could easily be fatal, especially in cold water when survival time is short. Until we evolve enough that man overboard-recovery systems, like the Jason’s Cradle, are mandated on all towing vessels it’s very questionable whether or not not your shipmates would ever be able to get you back on board at all. For more information on this, read the post from a year ago – Man Overboard: What Do You Really Do?.
Finally, there’s the legal aspect. This isn’t meant as a jab to the legal profession, because sometimes there is no other remedy, but no one except the lawyers comes out ahead in the end after the injury has already occurred, especially when it goes to full-on litigation. Think about it for a minute and it becomes crystal clear: prevention is always better than response.
For those readers that need no further persuasion Campmor (amongst many others) is selling them for $24.95 right now.