What you need to know if you’re working aloft or over the side

There have been numerous horror stories about crew being seriously injured or even killed in the past few years. This blog will help to cover the basic standard operating procedures that should be followed for even the greenest of crew, whether you are day working or permanently employed. You may disagree with some of my points but these come from what I was taught onboard a yacht where safety was the number one priority at all times and the knowledge was passed on by well-respected officers.


• ‘Feet off teak’ means you are working aloft or over the side – no arguments.

• Make sure a member of senior crew knows you are planning to work aloft or over the side.

• Ensure a permit to work has been opened by an officer and you have read and signed the permit. If you are unsure of anything then ASK!

• Use the correct PPE (personal protection equipment) – 5 point harness, 2 ropes (working rope & safety rope), helmet, life jacket, fall arrester, non-slip shoes.

• Ensure you know how all your PPE works. There is no point if you are not familiar with the equipment or how it works.

• Make sure all relevant equipment has been load tested. Use one track car per safety rope and never have two people on one car or one track unless rated for two people.

• TAG out mast area from the bridge i.e. radars, VSAT & horn. (The last thing you want is to fry your nuts or be knocked from the mast by a spinning radar.)

• NEVER go over the side if you are alongside on the hard! (Many people will disagree with this but to be honest the 100 Euros a day didn’t seem worth it to be splattered all over the dock should it have gone wrong!)

• If you are not comfortable working at height then say. It’s much easier to deal with than rescuing someone having a meltdown at the top of a mast!

• Use lines to secure wash or maintenance equipment to you. – A shurhold pole falling from the top of a mast will really mess up someone’s day if it lands on them!

• Ideally, you will have someone keeping an eye on you at all times, however, this isn’t always practical depending on the working situation at the time.

• If you don’t have a working partner then check in by radio regularly to let relevant crew know where you are working and when you have completed the task.

• Take fluids and make sure you have slapped on the sunscreen. It is very easy to get dehydrated and very sunburnt in a short space of time when working aloft.

• Maintain all equipment properly. If it is wet then let it dry before stuffing it in a locker to go mouldy and rot. If equipment is damaged or broken it is useless so report it to an officer.


By following the correct procedures you avoid getting hurt or worse! Remember the boat should be operating with standard operating procedures along with training the crew. The code of safe working practices (COSWP) along with MCA MGN’s are available for further information. At the end of the day, your safety is ultimately your responsibility. If you are unsure then STOP, THINK & ASK!


Tom spent 2 years as a deckhand working on Aquila and Infinity, both outstanding yachts, before returning shore side to his home town of Poole. Prior to his career in yachting Tom worked for Jet Ski Surfaris as a Flyboard Instructor. He now looks after Deckhands, Lead Deckhands and various other roles including Carpenters and Water Sports Instructors.

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