Australia’s maritime safety regulator is seeking ways to reduce man overboard drownings, including potentially creating a rule that would require lifejackets to be worn on certain domestic commercial vessels.

Since July 1, 2013, 34 incidents on domestic commercial vessels have resulted in 44 people drowning, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), who noted safety data and research strongly indicates that wearing a lifejacket significantly improves chances of survival in man overboard situations.

The agency said it is currently exploring practical options to increase lifejacket wear on certain domestic commercial vessels after its analysis of the drowning incidents allowed it to identify what parts of industry present a higher risk of a person falling overboard.

Using this information, AMSA put together three possible options, and it is now asking for industry feedback to ensure the final regulations are relevant and practical.

The first option would see mandatory lifejacket wearing requirements on all domestic commercial vessels, at all times while on deck.

The second would mandate lifejacket wear only on specified domestic commercial vessels such as those less than 7.5 meters in length; Class 3 (fishing) vessels of any length, when on deck; unpowered barges that do not have rails or means to prevent a person falling overboard; and operations with only one person on board. All domestic commercial vessels would be required to have a documented risk assessment and written procedure on lifejacket wear in their safety management system.

The third proposed option would be continued lifejacket carriage requirements with no new mandatory lifejacket wear requirements. However, a risk assessment and written procedure addressing lifejacket wear in the safety management system would still be necessary.. 

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