Page 37 - Australian Defence Magazine Aug 2019
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of an eventual full return to their deployed role and normal employment. Rehabilita- tion consultants work closely with the De- fence member, commander, supervisor and health professional to deliver a structured and monitored rehabilitation program. This includes identifying alternate suitable duties for the member in the workplace in line with their restrictions if required.”
This lack of exposure management or awareness of the risks of prolonged RHIB use is a likely contributor to deteriorating health outcomes in the wider Navy.
Recent research has revealed that the per- centage of Navy personnel with a medical restriction has quadrupled since the 1990s, the number deemed medically unfit to de- ploy at sea has tripled, and the compensation claim rate is five times that of the ‘worst’ ci- vilian serious workers’ claim rate. These sta- tistics are made all the more poignant given that the same research shows up to 90 per cent of work-related injuries in the ADF are not reported.
What is to be done?
RAN is certainly cognisant of these issues. In a response to questions, Defence told ADM that boat coxswains are taught to take into account environment conditions, passenger safety and comfort. Coxswain training has also been improved with two new RHIB simulators at HMAS Cerberus. If operational procedures are in place that restrict the number of embarked personnel in rough weather, they are evidently there for good reason given the number of cap- sizes that have occurred.
The davit issue on the Hobart-class, as mentioned, is being fixed. Yet there are evi- dent shortcomings in the weight and stabil- ity of the J3 RHIBs that carry significant operational consequences, including the potential inability to board large surface vessels in rough seas.
Moreover, awareness of the chronic health effects of extended RHIB use is evidently low. No RHIB can fully mitigate against this risk, but if fighter pilots under- go a full medical evaluation post-ejection to determine their suitability to continue fly- ing, it stands to reason that personnel regu- larly using RHIBs should undergo similar evaluations. At the very least, the time they spend in RHIBs should be tracked.
Solving all of these problems is a long and complex road, but that road starts with better awareness and optimum equipment. Hence the question: are Navy’s fast boats still fit for purpose? | August 2019 | 37

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