Over at the Step Change In Safety site there is an ongoing discussion about stretchers and freefall lifeboats and we thought we’d put it to the grand brains trust of our readers. Although the appeal can from the offshore industry a scenario in which, say, an explosion onboard ship causes injuries that, in an abandonment, result in a need to evacuate stretcher-bound casualties by freefall lifeboat is a reasonable one.
What is the safest, tried and tested method? Bear in mind there may be multiple casualties and some may have actual or suspected spinal injuries. There are seat-stretchers designed to fit into a normal freefall lifeboat but these are not appropriate where there may be spinal injuries.
None of the options sound very workable in a real life situation, other than putting the stretcher into a davit-launched lifeboat.
One option is for the casualty to be lowered by crane, with the stretcher fitted with floating devices, to the sea surface, there to float unattended until picked up. This obviously isn’t going to enhance survival of the casualty in rough, or even moderately rough seas.
Also, no solution is acceptable if it increases hazards to other personnel. The foregoing suggestion would probably involve two personnel, one to operate a winch, the other to handle a line attached to the stretcher to keep it under control. This leaves them in an undesirable ‘last man off’ situation – delaying the launch of the lifeboat carrying the rest of the survivors until the stretcher is off is not an acceptable solution.
However, freefall lifeboats can, of course be davit-launched because there are situations in which a freefall is not practical, such as when is ice, or debris in the water or the water is too shallow. So the safest option may be to use a freefall lifeboat on it’s davits, as in this animation: (Courtesy/Copyright IDESS Interactive Technologies)
So, what would you do,or what have you done to deal with this situation?