241 FW 1
Watercraft Safety

Supersedes 241 FW 1, FWM 408, 10/08/02

Date:  March 31, 2008, as amended February 6, 2009

Series: Occupational Safety and Health

Part 241: Safety Operations

Originating Office: Division of Safety and Health

 

 

PDF Version

 

 

1.1 What is the purpose of this chapter? This chapter describes responsibilities for implementing the Department of the Interior (Department) mandated watercraft safety program and establishes minimum requirements for the safe operation of motorboats and manually powered watercraft.

 

1.2 What is the Service policy for operation of watercraft? We will operate all watercraft in a safe and prudent manner in accordance with local and State laws, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) regulations, Departmental regulations, and this chapter.

 

1.3 What is the scope of this chapter? This chapter:

 

A. Applies to Service employees, volunteers, and others conducting official duties for the Service on motorboats and manually powered watercraft and anyone using Service-owned or Service-leased motorboats and manually powered watercraft. (See section 1.5E for more information about motorboats.)

 

B. Is not intended for operators of watercraft larger than 65 feet in length. Those operators must have a USCG license and follow USCG operator requirements.

 

1.4 What are the authorities for the watercraft safety program?

 

A. Federal Agency Safety Programs and Responsibilities (Public Law 91-596, Sec 19).

 

B. Executive Order 12196, Occupational Safety and Health Programs for Federal Employees.

 

C. Basic Program Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs and Related Matters (29 CFR 1960).

 

D. 485 DM 22, Watercraft Safety.

 

1.5 What terms do you need to know to understand this chapter?

 

A. Anti-exposure clothing. Anti-exposure clothing is apparel specifically designed to protect the wearer from exposure to particular elements and includes:

 

(1) USCG-approved Type V immersion suit.

 

(2) USCG-approved Type V worksuit.

 

(3) USCG-approved Type III float coat in combination with floatation bib coveralls or comparable clothing, such as a USCG-approved Type III float coat in combination with chest waders. The chest waders may be either of neoprene construction or made of non-insulating material if adequate thermal protection is worn under the waders.

 

(4)  A dry suit when it is donned at all times and worn with the proper under gear and the proper USCG-approved personal flotation device.

 

B. Crew. Personnel other than the operator who are essential to the operation of the watercraft.

 

C. Immersion Suit. A one-piece USCG-approved Type V personal flotation device of neoprene construction that is generally stowed on board, is put on in the event of an emergency, and provides greater hypothermia protection than anti-exposure clothing. See Exhibit 1.

 

D. Kill Switch. A device designed to shut off an engine if the operator is thrown or moves away from the controls.

 

E. Motorboat. Any motorized watercraft 65 feet or less in length that does not require a USCG license or certification to operate.

 

F. Motorboat Operator Certification Course (MOCC). The 24-hour training course that Service-authorized personnel who operate motorboats must successfully complete.

 

G. Motorboat Operator Instructor Certification Course (MOICC). The 40-hour training course that those who teach the MOCC must successfully complete.

 

H. Operator. The person in physical control of the watercraft.

 

I. Personal Flotation Device (PFD). A Department- and USCG-approved device designed to keep the user afloat while in the water. See Exhibit 1 for illustrations of the types of USCG-approved PFDs. The Department requires that each PFD be international orange in color and have retroreflective tape (485 DM 22).

 

J. Watercraft. Boats and ships collectively that are propelled by hand, wind, or machinery (i.e., airboats, sailboats, inflatable rafts, and all other vessels). We do not consider seaplanes as watercraft for this chapter.

 

1.6 Who is responsible for the watercraft safety program?

 

A. The Director:

 

(1)  Ensures sufficient support and resources to effectively implement watercraft safety program requirements.

 

(2)  Appoints the Service Watercraft Safety Coordinator.

 

B.  The Assistant Director - Business Management and Operations:

 

(1)  Nominates the Service Watercraft Safety Coordinator to the Director, with assistance from the Chief, Division of Safety and Health.

 

(2)  Provides sufficient support and resources to the Chief, Division of Safety and Health to ensure that the Chief can effectively accomplish responsibilities identified in section 1.6C.

 

C.  The Chief, Division of Safety and Health:

 

(1) Facilitates, administers, and supports the Service Watercraft Safety Working Group.

 

(2) In conjunction with the Service Watercraft Safety Working Group, updates and revises this policy for watercraft safety.

 

(3)  Works closely with the Service Watercraft Coordinator to ensure he/she actively participates on the Departmental Watercraft Safety Working Group.

 

(4)  Conveys pertinent watercraft safety issues to the Departmental Safety Council.

 

D. The Regional Directors:

 

(1) Ensure there are sufficient support and resources to effectively implement watercraft safety program requirements.

 

(2) Appoint a qualified Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator.

 

E. The Service Watercraft Safety Coordinator:

 

(1) Serves as the watercraft safety program point of contact with other bureaus and the Department.

 

(2) Serves as our representative on the Departmental Watercraft Safety Working Group.

 

(3) Serves as the chairperson of the Service Watercraft Safety Working Group.

 

(4) Has successfully completed MOCC and MOICC training. If the Service Watercraft Safety Coordinator has not taken these two courses prior to appointment, he/she must have a minimum of 5 years of boating experience and must complete these two courses within 1 year of appointment.

 

(5) Reviews requests for MOCC course substitutions and approves or denies each request based on the requirements in section 1.7A.

 

F. The Service Watercraft Safety Working Group:

 

(1) Assesses training needs and discusses standardized approaches and best business practices for conducting the MOCC, MOCC refresher training, the MOICC, and any additional specialized watercraft training modules.

 

(2) Ensures watercraft safety training meets the operational needs of our workforce.

 

(3) Evaluates the adequacy of the requirements in this chapter and proposes policy and procedural additions or changes, as appropriate.

 

G. Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinators:

 

(1) Coordinate Regional compliance with policies and procedures governing the operation, maintenance, and safety of watercraft.

 

(2) Actively participate on the Service Watercraft Safety Working Group.

 

(3) Have successfully completed MOCC and MOICC training. If a Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator has not taken these two courses prior to appointment, he/she must have a minimum of 5 years of boating experience and must complete these two courses within 1 year of appointment.

 

(4) Coordinate and oversee the Regional MOCC program, which includes approving all Service MOCCs taught in the Region and their lead instructors.

 

(5) Review requests for exemptions for PFD color and reflective tape requirements as well as requests for authorization to use auto-inflating PFDs as described in section 1.8A.

 

(6) Sends requests for MOCC substitutions to the Service Watercraft Safety Coordinator.

 

H. Regional Safety Managers:

 

(1) Review requests for 1-year exemptions to the PFD color and reflective tape requirements (see section 1.8A(1).

 

(2) Review requests for authorizations to use auto-inflating PFDs as described in section 1.8A(2)(a).

 

I. Project Leaders and Supervisors:

 

(1) Establish protocols to ensure that all employees, volunteers, and others:

 

(a) Conduct watercraft operations in a safe manner and in compliance with established Departmental and Service policies and procedures.

 

(b) Maintain equipment in compliance with existing policies and procedures, such as the Serviceís Maintenance Management System (372 FW 1 and 2).

 

(2) Ensure that all employees, volunteers, and others who operate and work in watercraft on official duty are trained in watercraft operations appropriate to the:

 

(a) Type and size of watercraft used;

 

(b) Geographic, climatic, and physical nature of the operations; and

 

(c) Operational task being performed.

 

(3) Provide the safety and survival equipment that the watercraft operator identifies as necessary.

 

J. The Motorboat Operator:

 

(1) Successfully completes the MOCC and maintains certification.

 

(2) Is responsible for the safety of personnel on board regardless of position and grade, and operates the motorboat in compliance with existing policies, guidelines, and training.

 

(3) Before beginning any boat trip:

 

(a) Determines what safety and survival equipment is needed and ensures that the required safety equipment is on board and maintained in good serviceable condition.

 

(b) Shows the crew and passengers where emergency equipment is located and provides any other information that is essential in event of an emergency.

 

(4) Provides written or verbal notification of a float plan to a responsible individual outlining pertinent details (e.g., when departing and returning, etc.) of the trip. Deviations to this requirement may be necessary for certain operations (see section 1.11).

 

(5) Uses a kill switch when required (see section 1.9).

 

K. Other Personnel on board any watercraft:

 

(1) Obey lawful orders of the watercraft operator.

 

(2) Adhere to all safety regulations.

 

(3) At all times conduct themselves in a reasonable and prudent manner.

 

1.7 What are the training requirements for watercraft operators?

 

A. MOCC. Service-authorized operators of motorboats must, at a minimum, successfully complete the Department of the Interior MOCC or an approved substitute course. Prior to taking the MOCC, personnel may practice motorboat operation under the supervision of a MOCC-trained operator on board the watercraft. Personnel who have not taken the MOCC may only operate motorboats to gain experience. Contact the Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator to register for the MOCC or to request approval for a substitution. Substituted training must demonstrate that it will meet the MOCC objectives, including on-water proficiency. 485 DM 22 contains information on the MOCC course content.

 

B. MOCC Refresher Training. Refresher training is required every 5 years and consists of an educational classroom module and a practical proficiency module.

 

(1) Personnel can complete the educational classroom module in one of the following ways:

 

(a) Take the computer Internet course that the National Conservation Training Center offers. A score of 70 percent or more is required to pass.

 

(b) Retake and pass the MOCC.

 

(c) Successfully complete the MOICC.

 

(d) Teach at least one MOCC or MOICC.

 

(2) Personnel can complete the practical proficiency module in one of the following ways:

 

(a) Successful completion of a hands-on demonstration of boating exercises in the presence of a certified instructor. This method should be selected if the individual operates motorboats occasionally as a normal part of his/her duties.

 

(b) Proven and safe operation of motorboats since completing the initial or previous refresher MOCC. This method should be selected if the individual operates motorboats regularly as a routine part of his/her job.

 

(c) Retake the MOCC. This method should be selected if the individual has not operated motorboats on a regular basis as a normal part of his/her job and needs to remain certified.

 

(d) Successfully complete the MOICC.

 

(e) Teach at least one MOCC or MOICC.

 

(3)  A minimum of three authorized instructors are required to instruct each MOCC. In remote areas with limited transportation options, a Project Leader may request approval to use two authorized instructors and a third person, a subject matter expert from the community, to teach a MOCC.  Approval requires the concurrence of both the Regional Watercraft Coordinator and the Regional Safety Manager.  

 

C. MOICC. Individuals who have successfully completed the MOICC instruct MOCC courses. 485 DM 22 contains additional information on the MOICC course content. 

 

D. Additional Training. Project Leaders and supervisors must ensure that watercraft operators have received adequate training to safely operate their motorized or non-motorized watercraft within the water and environmental conditions they are assigned. Successful completion of the MOCC does not imply that personnel are competent to operate a motorboat in all conditions that they may encounter. Training courses in specialized subjects such as Airboat Operations, Moving Water Operations, and Open Water Operations are available. It is the responsibility of the Project Leader or supervisor to ensure that all operators have the skills needed for the conditions in which they are reasonably expected to operate watercraft. Non-motorized watercraft operators must demonstrate their competence or be provided with on-the-job training to become competent, before they are authorized to use the equipment.  Lack of course availability does not alleviate the Project Leader or supervisor of the responsibility to ensure that the watercraft operator is properly trained. Contact the Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator for further information.

 

E. Airboat Training. Airboat operators must complete the 8-hour Airboat module in addition to the MOCC and have 40 hours of documented driving time before they may operate an airboat independently. The documented driving time may occur prior to or after completing the Airboat module, but must be conducted under the supervision of a qualified airboat operator. We require that the driving time be documented on FWS Form 3-2238.

 

1.8 What safety and survival equipment are required for watercraft? Each watercraft must meet or exceed applicable USCG, Department, and Service design and equipment requirements and be outfitted based on expected conditions with other equipment necessary for safe operation. Personnel must maintain all USCG-required personal safety equipment as mandated by USCG regulations and State and local laws.

 

A. Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs):

 

(1) Conventional PFDs. Exhibit 1 shows USCG-approved PFDs. PFDs must be international orange in color and equipped with retroreflective tape in accordance with 485 DM 22. We permit deviations from this requirement when there are special mission requirements (i.e., special law enforcement operations) that we cannot otherwise satisfy. The Project Leader of the organizational unit must authorize deviations in writing before they conduct the activity. The written authorization must identify alternate safety measures they will use, such as a visual display signal, whistle, strobe light, etc. The Project Leader will authorize deviations on a case-by-case basis except where they have the concurrence of the Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator and the Regional Safety Manager. In those cases, the Project Leader may authorize the deviation for a period not to exceed 1 year. PFDs must be on board and accessible for each occupant of all watercraft as described below:

 

(a) Motorboats less than 26 feet in length: Personnel must wear a Type I, II, III, or V PFD at all times while on board.   

 

(b) Motorboats 26 to 65 feet in length: Personnel must wear a Type I, II, III, or V PFD when in open spaces or when directed by the operator.

 

(c) Non-motorized watercraft: Personnel must wear a Type I, II, III, or V PFD at all times.

 

(2) Auto-Inflating PFDs. We only authorize auto-inflating PFDs for use in special circumstances, where there is evidence that using a conventional PFD will increase the health and safety risks to the employee when compared to the auto-inflating PFD.

 

(a) Request for authorization to use auto-inflating PFDs. Request special authorization to use auto-inflating PFD on a case-by-case basis from the Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator. If the Regional Watercraft Coordinator concurs with the request, the Coordinator sends it to the Regional Safety Manager for review. Both the Regional Watercraft Coordinator and Regional Safety Manager must concur with the request to approve it. The authorization to use an auto-inflating PFD is valid for a period not to exceed 1 year and only for the particular task for which it is approved. 

 

(b) Maintenance and training for auto-inflating PFDs. In any request for authorization to use auto-inflating PFDs, you must include a detailed plan for additional training and set out a maintenance program with which personnel must comply. You must perform maintenance in accordance with the manufacturerís recommendations. At a minimum, personnel must inspect the auto-inflating PFD after each immersion or every 6 months, if not used. Also every 6 months, personnel must inspect the bladder, arming device, carbon dioxide canister, and seal. The training provided should be specific to the type and model of auto-inflating PFD. Personnel must test the PFD in the water during the training. The training should also cover maintenance and inspection requirements and repacking procedures.

 

B. Fire Protection Equipment. At a minimum, one USCG-approved ABC type fire extinguisher with a 2.5 lb charge must be installed at a location that is readily accessible on all motorboats less than 26 feet in length.  All motorboats from 26 feet to 40 feet in length must have two, and motorboats 40 feet to 65 feet must have three.  Follow USCG guidelines for fixed systems on larger vessels.

 

C. Anti-Exposure Clothing. We require wearing anti-exposure clothing when air temperature and water temperature combined fall below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, except in those rare instances when the vessel operator determines it is safer not to wear the clothing. Anti-exposure clothing is particularly important when a vessel is operating alone off shore or in a remote location and rescue may be delayed or unlikely, and when vessels are operating in conditions when immersion in the water will likely disable the victim regardless of the proximity to shore or rescue. Exceptions to the requirements are those situations when personnel may unexpectantly enter the water and it is likely that rescue or self rescue would be immediate and successful, such as inside a marina while moving the boat from a dock to a trailer when others are present; conducting MOCC/MOICC training with vessels operating in close proximity; and transporting personnel on inshore water or on narrow leads for short distances in moderate weather

 

D. Immersion Suits.

 

(1) Immersion suits provide greater hypothermia protection than anti-exposure gear and may be required by your supervisor and/or Service policy based on the hazards of the operation.  We require immersion suits for all vessel occupants when working in cold, harsh, ocean, or ocean-like conditions. The vessel operator will assign each occupant of the watercraft the suit they are to use in case of emergency, show each occupant how to use it, and give each occupant the opportunity to practice using it.

 

(2) Inspect immersion suits after every use, and at least every 6 months if not used. Maintain them as recommended by the manufacturer. Immersion suits our personnel use must be made of neoprene, and they must be able to put them on when fully clothed, including footgear. If equipped with a liner, the liner must be constructed so that it will not become detached from the outer suit or cause the victim to become entangled while putting it on. Gloves or mittens are an integral component of the suit.

 

(3) The Service Watercraft Safety Working Group may authorize the use of new designs in immersion suits that do not meet the standards in section 1.8D(2). To have the Working Group consider authorizing an immersion suit, send a request to your Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator for presentation to the entire Working Group.

 

E. Communications Equipment. We provide communications equipment (e.g., marine radio, cell phone, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs), etc.) capable of requesting emergency assistance and maintaining radio schedules to operators of all watercraft, except in those instances where the operator has determined that the equipment is not necessary due to the nonhazardous nature of the operating environment. As with all safety and survival equipment identified in section 1.8, it is the Project Leaderís/supervisorís responsibility to provide what the operator identifies as needed (see sections 1.6I(3) and 1.6J(3)(a)).

 

F. Navigation Aids. Navigation aids suitable to the mission must be on board the watercraft. The aids may include a compass, radar, GPS, depth finder, etc.

 

G. Auxiliary Power. We recommend auxiliary power (e.g., an extra outboard motor) for motorboats operated in areas where, in the event of primary engine failure, assistance is not easily obtained. We require auxiliary power for motorboats operated in areas where assistance is unavailable.

 

1.9 When must operators use a kill switch?

 

A. Motorboats 26 feet or less in length: Operators of these motorboats must use kill switches at all times except in those rare instances when doing so increases the risk to personnel. For example, a kill switch might increase risk when operating upstream from a significant hazard, operating in extremely rough water, performing a rescue, or performing nonhazardous work tasks within the boat. 

 

B. Motorboats larger than 26 feet in length: We will install and use kill switches on these motorboats when the operator, Project Leader/supervisor, or Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator determines that a kill switch is necessary. We base the decision on whether or not a kill switch is necessary on the possibility of the operator being knocked from the controls or being thrown overboard. In making this determination, we must consider the type of boat, the conditions in which we operate the boat, and the tasks we perform.

 

C. Outboard with Tiller: When operating an outboard with a tiller, the operator must attach the kill switch whenever he/she shifts the engine to forward or reverse.

 

D.  Airboats: Operators of airboats must use kill switches at all times except in those rare instances when doing so increases the risk to personnel.  For example, a kill switch might increase risk when operating in areas such as deep water in narrow channels where a sudden engine stoppage will result in an unintended swamping.

 

1.10 What are the minimum maintenance documentation requirements? Maintain watercraft in good serviceable condition as required by the manufacturer and this chapter. FWS Form 3-2226 is a Preventative Maintenance Checklist. It is the responsibility of the Project Leader to see that all watercraft are maintained as needed. It is the responsibility of the watercraft operator to inspect the vessel for seaworthiness and proper equipment prior to taking the vessel out. We require the operator to keep a maintenance log for each watercraft and motor. The logs must contain the results of inspections, maintenance performed, fueling operations, trip information, total hours, and trailer maintenance information. Keep maintenance logs on board motorboats when space allows.

 

1.11 What are the requirements for a float plan?

 

A. Prior to using a watercraft, the operator must provide verbal or written notification (you may use FWS Form 3-2227, Float Plan) to a reliable contact with at least the following information:

 

(1) What type of watercraft is being used,

 

(2) Who is on board,

 

(3) Point of departure,

 

(4) Point of destination,

 

(5) Estimated time of departure,

 

(6) Estimated time of return,

 

(7) Purpose of the trip, and

 

(8) Any vehicles used.

 

B. We permit deviation from these requirements if special mission situations prevent the conveyance of this information, such as law enforcement undercover operations.

 

1.12 What are the requirements for surf landings? Surf landings under high surf conditions are dangerous and require special skills. Only experienced personnel may attempt these landings. A second vessel should be standing by to render assistance.

 

1.13 What are the requirements for accident reporting and investigations? Operators must report all Service accidents and near accidents to their Project Leader or supervisor. The Project Leader or supervisor is responsible for completing an accident report using the Departmentís Safety Management Information System (SMIS), regardless of whether or not injuries occurred or the cost of associated property damage. 

 

A. We must investigate and report serious accidents (loss of life, three or more people hospitalized, or Service property loss of $250,000 or greater) in accordance with 485 DM 7. The investigation team or trained investigator, appointed by the Assistant Director - Business Management and Operations, will include at least one member of the Service Watercraft Safety Workgroup. Investigators cannot be from the Region where the accident occurred.

 

B. The boat operator completes a Boating Accident Report (USCG Form 3865) whenever an accident occurs in U.S. or territorial waters involving a Service vessel (including vessels under contract and vessels permitted to operate on Departmental waters) that results in more than $2,000 in property damage, an injury causing incapacitation for more than 72 hours, or loss of life. You can find more information about boating casualty investigations on the USCG Web site.

 

C. The boat operator also reports the accident to local authorities in the State where the accident occurred if required to do so by State law.  State requirements for reporting boating accidents may be more stringent than Federal (e.g., some States require that all boating accidents be reported immediately). Check with your Regional Watercraft Coordinator for proper reporting procedures.

 


For information on the content of this chapter, contact the Division of Safety and Health. For information about this Web site, contact Krista Bibb in the Division of Policy and Directives Management (PDM).  


Directives Home

 

PDM Web sites: Centralized Library of Servicewide Policies | FWS Forms | PDM Services

Privacy, Disclaimer and Copyright Information | Information Quality Act

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page | Department of the Interior  | USA.gov  | About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  | Accessibility  | Privacy  | Notices  | Disclaimer  | FOIA