Orkney Harbours launches winter pier safety campaign to remind users of potential hazards

Orkney Harbours has issued a seasonal reminder to users to be “safety aware” on the islands’ piers and slipways this coming winter.

The harbour authority has produced a new video which will be shared across social media this winter to highlight the issue of pier safety.

Harbour Master Jim Buck is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the authority’s 29 piers and harbours, including Scapa Flow and Kirkwall.

Jim Buck said: “With the weather turning, it’s important we identify the risks of multi-use piers. The campaign is aimed at recreational users, general visitors and also those for whom the piers form part of their place of work, such as boat owners, crew and fishers.

“Piers and slipways are the main interaction between people who use the piers and the maritime environment, and it has to be as safe as possible for everyone.”

Piers were originally built as workplaces and continue to be used by marine workers and were not designed as play areas. Although recreational users are welcome at appropriate times, Orkney Harbours is reminding users that care must be taken at all times approaching a pier.

With most piers in Orkney accessible to the public, the harbour authority is highlighting the numerous safety features that are on hand in the maritime environment.

Mr Buck added: “There are life buoys located at all pier locations and there are also safety poles and boat hooks on hand should someone be in difficulty in the water. The sea is bitterly cold at this time of year and if someone is in distress, reaching them quickly and being able to remove them from the water safely is crucial.”

“Users should be aware of signage around the piers that explain the potential dangers. It’s also useful to be aware of the life-saving equipment available at the harbours. If you know where the equipment is and how to use it, then you could save someone’s life at the end of the day.”

Common accidents around about the piers, breakwaters and slipways include trips and falls due to uneven surfaces. Pier “furniture” including bollards, ropes and other working equipment is frequently used and can pose potential hazards to the unwary.

Ali Cameron is a full-time Coxswain/Mechanic with the RNLI, based in Kirkwall and is the organisation’s new Water Safety Officer in Orkney.

Ali Cameron said: “We are delighted Orkney Harbours is highlighting safety issues around its quayside infrastructure. These areas are not inherently unsafe, but we would always urge those using these facilities to be aware of potential hazards and remain vigilant at all times.”

Severe weather is also a hazard for pier users as winter approaches.

Jim Buck said: “Whether it be darkness or daylight, people should aim to know what the tides are doing and be aware of what the wind is doing. Large waves can easily swamp the pier and the force of the water can easily sweep people off their feet and into the water.

“Not all of our piers and slipways are manned and therefore it is essential people are alert and aware of the potential hazards.

“We know many people are familiar with the piers which are an integral part of life for many of us here in Orkney. But there is not room for complacency.  We want people to be able to enjoy the marine environment but to do so safely.”