If you see a fellow longshoreman fall off of the dock, you do not have much time. A person can drown in as little as 60 seconds after inhaling only a quarter cup of water.
Sometimes, the situation could be even more serious. If the fall knocks someone out, or if someone falls without personal flotation devices, then you must act quickly.
Many of OSHA’s guidelines try to make it easier to rescue your fallen coworkers. For example, your employer should provide life jackets and show how to wear them properly.
Rescue devices should be easy to find and access. Examples could include hooks, ladders, floating rings and stretcher baskets. This equipment should already have lines and be ready to work immediately. Even if these life-saving items are easy to find, your employer should still take care to tell everyone where they are.
Hopefully, your employer or the dock authority has done everything necessary to provide you with enough preparation. Now, it is your turn to take action. Here are some things you could do:
- Keep sight of the person in the water at all times
- Call first responders and make sure everybody around knows there is a person in the water
- Throw flotation devices or lower ladders
- Direct the person in the water to safety with large motions, loud noises or bright lights
If emergency response teams arrive, follow the directions they give you. Answer any questions they ask. If you believe unsafe conditions contributed to the fall, you might want to take photographs of the scene and notify the proper authorities.
Witnessing a fall is often frightening. It could also be hard to simply throw flotation devices in the water when your friend is in peril. Please remember that it is not your fault. It is not your responsibility to provide a safe working environment — that duty lies with your employer.