The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Motor Vessel (MV) PUGET ‘s mission is all about keeping other vessels safe.
The debris recovery vessel patrols Puget Sound inland waters, collecting debris and obstructions that may damage vessels. For their job, the crew of five uses an onboard crane, chainsaws, and other equipment for their dangerous job of snagging debris out of the frigid waters.
Not surprisingly, they must apply risk management practices, to ensure employees minimize risking injury, damage or harm as they execute tasks and serve the nation.
It is the district’s “Taking Care of People” approach that secured Seattle District’s PUGET crew the Army Risk Management Award. Director of Army Safety and U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center Commander Brig. Gen. Jonathan Byrom presented the crew with their award at the USACE-owned and operated Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Locks), Sept. 21.
“The fact that you had the wisdom to slow down and not cause an accident that would have caused significant loss of time and resources, must be recognized,” said Byrom. “If we can get soldiers across the entire Army to have this mindset, it would change our safety culture.”
Byrom said he intends to share the PUGET crew’s example of applying deliberate risk management practices across the Army.
USACE Northwestern Division Commander Brig. Gen. Geoff Van Epps attended the ceremony and shared the Army safety director’s views.
“The PUGET crew absolutely exemplified the right approach to safety,” said Van Epps. “The team was not only deliberate and methodical in their approach to risk management, but they respected and took the Army Corps’ mission seriously. We always advocate the right way to do things.”
For the crew, the award confirmed their obligation to keep safety at the forefront of everything they do.
“Safety is always our No. 1 priority in navigation and on the PUGET,” said Captain Stephen “Skipp” Green. “We encourage this mindset from the top down, and it’s how I believe we caught this issue. I always put my trust in what the crane operator’s decision for the lift is, whether it can or can’t be accomplished.”
Feb. 14, 2023, was like any other workday. The crew’s task, to use its mounted crane to lift two, 6-ton small lock floats from the small lock at the Locks, was part of their standard operations. In fact, the crew, part of the district’s Waterway Maintenance Unit (WMU), had completed this maneuver using the same equipment and configuration countless times before with no issues.
For Small Craft Operator Luis Hernandez, completing this critical lift for the first time on Valentine’s Day presented the ideal opportunity to focus on risk management.
“As the person sitting in the seat, the crane operator is ultimately responsible for pre-planning during all lifts including routine ones and making on-the-spot decisions during daily operations,” said Green. “They ensure the crew’s safety. The decisions they make are critical and always changing. Routine is what gets everyone in trouble. Attention to detail is key.”
Original load charts show the critical lift is under 75 percent of the crane's rated load. Concerned the new load charts might be more restrictive, Green, Hernandez, Crane Operator Jordan St. John, Section Marine Machinery Mechanic Joshua Deming, Small Craft Operator Silad On, and Locks Maintenance Lead John Ryan, reassessed the lift rather than assuming it was still safe.
With this approach, and after taking cursory measurements based on the tentative center location, they determined the lift might not be within specifications according to the new load charts. After Hernandez completed the critical lift plan, the team confirmed the lift may be at risk with the estimated radius and rigging.
“Luis ‘really went to town’ digging into all the resources available to him,” said Green. “He looked through the old load charts and noticed that while it was being performed safely and nothing had changed with the crane or on the vessel, they weren’t ‘within specs’ of our current load charts…That’s when the conversations started.”
They began collaborating with the Marine Design Center, the Corps of Engineers' center of expertise and experience in developing and applying innovative strategies and technologies for naval architecture and marine engineering. This led to the crew updating its load charts, fully aware that any updates could affect the crane’s lift.
By testing their theory in the real world on a previously successful routine task, and applying deliberate risk management principles, the crew reduced the risk of potential costly accidents and future catastrophes.
“The team made the unpopular decision to go against the norm and complete a task they’d routinely done, but in a more methodical and intentional way, to prevent a mishap,” said WMU Chief Bradford Schultz II. “Their course of action empowered the WMU to set a precedent of applying risk management techniques now, to avoid disasters later.”
The Army Safety Awards Program recognizes, promotes, and motivates success in accident prevention through risk management, by recognizing safety accomplishments of individuals and units in the field.
“Fostering a safety-conscious environment, that includes everyone being a part of that process, leads to an amazing team,” said Green. “The PUGET provides an invaluable service to the Army Corps, the American public and the Pacific Northwest.”
The DCV HAYWARD is currently experiencing a significant overhaul at Bayonne Dry Dock (BDD) as it prepares to meet the latest industry standards. This major refit aims to upgrade its crane infrastructure and align with the requirements of the Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection and the American Bureau of Shipping Classification.
As a part of this initiative, Bayonne Dry Dock has taken comprehensive measures to install a state-of-the-art main crane on HAYWARD’s forward deck. This cutting-edge piece of machinery boasts an impressive lift capacity of 20 tons. Further enhancing its capabilities, the crane will be powered by a new hydraulic power unit, driven by a Cummins EPA Tier 3 diesel engine.
A significant note for environmental enthusiasts is the introduction of environmentally-friendly hydraulic oils. Both the new main crane and the rescue boat davit crane will be utilizing these eco-friendly lubricants, reflecting a growing commitment to sustainable practices in maritime operations.
But the upgrades don't stop there. In addition to the crane installations, HAYWARD has undergone a series of other crucial repairs and maintenance works. Some of the significant efforts include the replacement of wasted steel in the hull and main deck, propeller and shaft reconditioning, meticulous cleaning of fuel tanks, and the diligent maintenance of sea valves and sea chests.
These extensive refits not only ensure the HAYWARD's continued compliance with maritime regulations but also underscore a commitment to safety, performance, and environmental responsibility in the shipping industry. As the works progress, industry insiders and maritime enthusiasts will be keenly watching the transformation of the DCV HAYWARD into a vessel equipped for the challenges of modern-day shipping.