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The World Health Organization, WHO, has declared July 25th 2021 the World Drowning Prevention Day. This global advocacy event serves as an opportunity to highlight the tragic and profound impact of drowning on families and communities and offer life-saving solutions to prevent it. An estimated 235,600 people drown every year, and drowning is among the ten leading causes of death for children aged 5-14 years. Platform Zero Incidents (PZI) would like to utilize this opportunity to also raise awareness of drowning incidents in the inland shipping industry.

In 2020, PZI and Shell Shipping and Maritime have initiated an Inland barge safety program with focus on Preventing People from Falling into the Water. Several inland tanker operators, training institutes and other stakeholder have joined and are supporting the inland barge safety program with the ambitious goal to “Eliminate fatal or severe person overboard incidents in the European inland barging industry”.

As stated in WHO data, two areas which are of concern, are the high drowning cases in controlled/ inland water bodies (e.g. rivers) and the severity in the aftermath of drowning on families and communities, which makes this work that much more essential. PZI’s own database also resonates this alarming statistic, where Person overboard (PoB) incidents account for 42% of all fatalities across all reported incidents. Overall, the media incident database for the European barging industry maintained by PZI shows an alarming fatality rate of 57% in all PoB (falling in the water) incidents.

Upon scrutiny and deeper analysis of data, unsafe situations/acts during “Mooring Operations” and “Stepovers” were identified as the main direct causes for incidents relating to PoB. These Frequent operations tend to normalize this risk, thus promulgating unsafe “Stepover” behavior. The working group which also includes barge operating companies, have put their spotlight on “eliminating stepovers and risk awareness” and have identified five specific working themes (as shown in the figure below).

Workshops are organized to identify different working methods and rescue operations. The outcome will be widely distributed to the industry.

Considering the low water temperature in the winter – there is a special attention to the risk of Hypothermia. This involves making an information video, specific flyers (in different languages), safety alerts and improved training material. These include more technical information (lead by training institutes like STC-KNRM) on definitions (what is hypothermia?), water temperatures and reaction times (how hypothermia can kill?), and “what-to-do” after rescuing a person (prior to professional help arrives).

The working group has been instrumental in creating wide interest across terminal and port stakeholders, the willingness of parties to join the program was prominent in one of its workshops and also a measure of success on what this group has been working on so far. Looking ahead, the working group aims to build a knowledge repository and to keep the awareness high in this area. The mantra of “Prevention is better than cure” is indeed a life-saver on this crucial topic of persons falling in water.

More updates will be posted on this site as the working group makes progress across the different working themes.