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DSIWG Finalizing Safety Program

John Torgersen addresses WEDA members.

John Torgersen addresses WEDA members.

Thomas Verna is the Corps co-chair of DSIWG.

Thomas Verna is the Corps co-chair of DSIWG.

The new Dredging Safety Management Program (DSMP) will likely be in use by at least one dredging contractor by June 2001, if it is accepted by DCA members and the Corps of Engineers in January. The program is the dredging industry’s response to inadequate safety standards, which has kept dredging years behind the rest of the maritime industry in the area of safety. Participating companies will be required to submit and maintain a safety program tailored to each dredge and project, hire a certified auditor to analyze their program every year, and provide training for every person who works on a dredging project, whether on or off the dredge itself.



This will require a great leap of faith, said Mark Sickles, executive director of the Dredging Contractors of America (DCA), in a statement to members.



The extra expense of training and certification of each employee will restrict the available labor pool to these trained workers. In a time of labor shortages, this is the leap of faith, said John Torgersen, safety program manager for DCA.



Perplexed by the number of accidents and personal injury lawsuits that occur despite compliance with existing safety codes, the DCA and Corps of Engineers organized the Dredging Safety Initiative Working Group (DSIWG, pronounced dizzywig) to analyze the problem and suggest a solution. Co-chaired by Glenn Thomas of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company and Thomas Verna of the Corps of Engineers, with participation by all DCA members, DSIWG began seeking solutions in May 1999, looking at the measures taken by other facets of the marine industry and options for bringing the dredging industry up to current standards.



In January of this year, DCA hired John Torgersen as a full time safety consultant, to help design the new safety program. His challenge was to “reduce accidents in the dredging industry,” and he and the committee elected to go in the direction of the safety management program.



The fact that most dredges are not registered vessels, and therefore not subject to existing safety regulations, has kept the industry years behind the times in the area of safety, said Torgersen. Vessels over 500 tons must be registered, and are subject to International Safety Management Code (ISM), a code brought about by a tragedy in France where 700 people were killed in a ferry rollover. The towboat industry (American Waterways Operators, AWO) instituted its Standards for Certified Training and Watch Keeping in response to an accident in Louisiana where a towboat knocked out a railroad bridge, causing a train to derail into the water. Dredges, with the exception of some trailing suction hopper dredges, are not subject to any of these regulations.



The new program is therefore a voluntary action on the part of the dredging industry, with voluntary participation by individual contractors. The effort is funded by the DCA, with the Corps of Engineers cooperating but not funding the effort. After a trial period, when the program has been proven effective, the Corp’s plan is to take over management and funding of the program.



In designing the rules for the system, Torgersen and the committee identified 16 elements to be addressed. Meetings were held throughout the country, chaired by Thomas, Verna and Torgersen and attended by DCA members.



“It took 11 three-day meetings to get through the 16 elements,” said Torgersen. Each meeting was attended by about 15 contractors, mainly from the area where the meeting was being held, though some flew in from other areas of the country. The contractors know what they need to do to prevent accidents, and their input was incorporated into the new system.



Under the program, a company will adjust its rules on a yearly basis, while the organizing committee will adjust the rules constantly.



“We will meanwhile be gathering a wider net of statistics to give good data on an ongoing basis,” said Torgersen. “We will see trends early, such as back injuries, and rapidly adjust where we see a trend.”



The plan will aid Corps districts where dredging funds are increased beyond traditional levels, bringing an influx of new workers. In this case the accident rate could go up, and the Corps and DCA would be able to provide resources to deal with this problem.



This program will get us out of the business of lamenting what a tragedy the last accident was, and provide a way to prevent the next accident, by evaluating trends and making revisions in procedures on board the dredge, said Torgersen.



THIRD PARTY AUDITORS



Consulting companies can become auditors in the DSMP if they fulfill several criteria: if they are certified under the ISM, the AWO Responsible Carrier Program or the ISO 9000 lead auditor program, take a one-day course “This is the DSMP” through DCA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dredging Safety Course. The committee is holding two meetings to familiarize potential auditors with the program, in Jacksonville, Florida this week, and in Galveston, Texas the third week of November. The committee has invited ABS auditors, dredging consultants, AWO auditors and shipping organizations such as Det Norske Veritas, ISM and AWO to join the auditors program.



At the end of November, DSIWG will cease to exist, and DCA and the Corps of Engineers will elect a new group consisting of six members from the Corps of Engineers and six from DCA, to form the new DSMP. In January, 2001, DCA members and the Corps of Engineers will decide whether to accept the program. If the program is accepted, the new committee of 12 will meet in February and approve the third party auditors and issue certificates to them.



Once a year, each participating contractor will, at its own expense, bring in a certified auditor, who will go into the company, look at records and verify that the program described is in existence. The auditor will analyze the programs for individual dredges on a rotating basis, so in the course of three years, the program for every dredge in the company will be examined.



“It comes down to this,” said Torgersen. “The current accident prevention plans have nothing to do with the guy on the dredge. The plans are written by the company to satisfy the Corps Safety Guide, and are designed to make a safety officer happy, but not designed for a worker on a dredge to get answers to safety questions. The new program is entirely aimed a the guy on the dredge,” he said.



It won’t list rules, but will establish procedures that are written by dredging experts. In the past, lists of rules were posted, often in a dim, out-of-the-way location, and people had to figure out for themselves how to follow them. In the new program, the company figures out safe procedures, and trains the workers in these procedures. For instance, a worker is not given a set of rules for confined space entry, but is trained how to accomplish a confined space entry. The current rule book is several inches thick, and workers were expected to follow those rules, but not told how.



“We have to accept that it’s management’s responsibility to come up with a method that meets all the requirements,” said Torgersen.



The DSMP will require mandatory minimum training for everyone on the dredge. This is the most controversial part of the program, because it is expensive. It will restrict new people from doing certain jobs. After 90 days on the job, if the decision is made to keep that worker on, he or she will receive training in first aid, fire fighting, water survival and basic safety – all one-day courses. Five years after starting the program, no worker will be allowed on the dredge who has not had those classes.



“Instead of casual laborers, all workers on participating dredges will be trained professionals,” said Torgersen.



Because the DCA is footing the bill for establishing this program, participation is restricted to DCA members. Eighty percent of the U.S. dredging companies doing federal government contracts are members of the organization.



See related articles, " "National Dreding Meeting Set for Mid-May, IDR, January 2000, pp 10 - 11; and “DCA Hires Manager for New Safety Program”, IDR, February 2000, p 4.


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