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Embracing Realism in Safety Training: The Life-Sized Dummy Approach

Updated: Mar 9


Image showing passengers onboard a ship, with one person missing, representing the scenario of a person overboard incident.
Passengers onboard, unaware of the unfolding drama as a person goes overboard.

Picture this: You're miles from shore, the vast expanse of the ocean stretching into infinity. The air, a blend of salt and adventure, suddenly thickens with tension as a person goes overboard. As a seasoned trainer, I've witnessed the spectrum of emergency responses, but it was the introduction of a life-sized dummy into our drills that truly transformed our crew's preparedness for such harrowing situations. It all started on a course I was conducting. Under a sky so blue, the atmosphere onboard was jovial and carefree. However that's when disaster struck—a person overboard! The scramble to rescue was frantic, the crew's response was refined as this was a safety drill, yes, but the urgency was real, the lessons hard-earned. We were simulating a scenario all too common, where every second counts and the cold embrace of the water threatens life itself. This was certainly a wake-up call.



Crew members scanning the ocean horizon as the search begins for a missing person overboard.
The search begins as crew members scan the horizon for the missing individual.

Enter our protagonist, not a hero in the flesh but a 40kg life-sized dummy, an unsung hero of our training program. This wasn't just any dummy; it was the embodiment of every person we swore to protect, a tangible reminder of the crews ultimate responsibility of ensuring safety for all onboard.

The wake-up call

At first the dummy was not in sight. The crew communicated well and the vessel quickly turned around and begun retracing the previous track. All eyes were searching for a small head or body in the water. The atmosphere onboard had now changed to a frosty-chill and the sense of urgency. Finally the dummy was spotted and the vessel came alongside.

Lifting the lifeless dummy from the cold water wasn't just an exercise; it was heavy, cold, wet, and a profound realization of what dealing with a worse-case situation would be like.


Crew members pulling a person out of the water after a successful rescue operation at sea.
The successful rescue operation: crew members retrieving the person from the water.

We're not just training to respond; we're training to save lives

The lessons extended beyond the physical. The crew learnt the value of readiness, the power of teamwork, and the imperative of swift, decisive action. The introduction of a realistic weight transformed the safety drill from a routine exercise and into vital, engaging learning experience for all - including the Shore Base who assisted on the radio, arranged an ambulance and certainly played their supportive role.



The crew of a ship returning to shore after a successful rescue, grateful for their safety drill trainings
The relieved crew heads back to shore, thankful for their safety drill trainings.


Lessons Learned from Enhanced Safety Training

  1. The Importance of keeping things real: Incorporating a dummy that mirrors the weight and dimensions of a human adds a crucial layer of authenticity to training, making the simulation of emergencies more realistic.

  2. Building muscle memory through repetition: Regular practice with the dummy reinforces muscle memory, enabling a faster and more coordinated response during actual emergencies.

  3. Equipment familiarity is essential: A thorough knowledge of all onboard safety equipment, including life jackets and rescue lines, is critical. Safety drills and training emphasize familiarity with your equipment and helps provide confidence in a seemless workflow should a real scenario occur.

Realistic training isn't just an enhancement; it's a necessity for safety at sea. Using a life-sized dummy in person overboard drills bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, preparing crews for the physical and mental challenges of marine rescues.

Elevate Your Safety Training with SeaLogs

Are you ready to take your crew's preparedness to the next level? SeaLogs offers a comprehensive solution for tracking and managing safety drills, ensuring that your team is trained and ready for any emergency. With our platform, you can document each drill, assess performance improvements, and maintain compliance with safety standards.


Embrace the challenge, embrace the realism. Let's set the new standard in safety training together.



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