It’s hotter than 90 degrees today where I’m writing from in Virginia. But in this blog I’d like to look ahead to when it’s 20 degrees, you are freezing your stern off and you are slipping and sliding on deck like an ice skating rink. Despite what they say about global warming, it’s going to get cold. Last winter almost all of the Great Lakes were iced over. That’s cold.

Most of us don’t operate in the Caribbean or Hawaii. You guys that can catch a winter tan can go read something else in WorkBoat. But for the rest of us, who each icy winter risk breaking a leg or taking a ride right overboard, we need to think ahead while it’s still warm enough for the paint to stick.

I’m talking about the greatest threat to your safety year after year -- slips, trips and falls. Over 25% of all injuries onboard are these accidents. This is not a new trend. In a previous blog I gave you the spread of injuries and slips, trips and falls always lead the pack. These preventable accidents cost money. You’re out of work. There are medical expenses. Plus there can be lawsuits for the bad ones. A $300,000 injury settlement is not uncommon.

When I said let’s do something about it while the paint still sticks, I meant we should take action while it’s still warm enough to lay paint and nonskid coating. It's too late to fix things once you're already chipping ice from the deck. No pun intended, but a couple of years ago I missed the boat on this. Winter crept up and I missed the window and was kicking myself for not fixing the deck in the summer. Excuses don’t cut it when a crewmember slips on his or her butt, is nursing a bad bruise or is on the beach with a broken bone.

Let’s take a walk around the deck as I’ve always encouraged you to do. Look closely at the nonskid coating. It wears out, chips, peels up and gives up the ghost under a couple of inches of ice and snow. It might be tough to close off all of the deck to lay nonskid coating but you can do it one area at a time. If the entire deck is that bad, then it needs to be done when the boat is up in the shipyard. In the end, it’s easier and cheaper to take this ounce of prevention rather than spend time in the hospital.

If I wanted to find the best place in the world to trip and fall, I’d get a towboat. Everything is laid out like an obstacle course. Tank tops, shackle pads, turning blocks and ladders up and down the topside are just a few killers. Get them painted and outlined with that OSHA yellow. OSHA’s regulation states that yellow shall be the basic color for designating caution and for marking physical hazards such as striking against, stumbling, falling, tripping and getting caught in between. Yellow looks cool too! Just tell yourself that.

Think about getting this done before it’s too late in the season. Later we’ll talk about the soles of your safety shoes and boots. (Notice I didn’t say sneakers or flip flops.)  As the ancient Romans said: "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." Or falls on their butt.

A collection of stories from guest authors.