Whether you work on an oil rig, a fishing vessel or anything in between, bad weather can prove extremely dangerous for you and your crewmembers. Not only can it halt production and set you back a few hours, days or weeks, but it can also increase the chances of serious — and even fatal — injuries.

How can seamen forecast bad weather?

While modern-day weather forecasts are typically reliable, the weather at sea can change suddenly and without warning. And while some workers might be used to the inclement weather, many may not know how to recognize it before it gets too unmanageable to work through.

Luckily, there are signs that can alert seamen to severe changes in the weather when an average weather forecast doesn’t do the trick. If you work on the water, watch for these weather warnings:

  • Clouds: Certain types of clouds can alert you to a brewing storm. The shape, color and movement of a cloud can notify seamen what the weather will be like in the coming hours. For example, high, white and wispy clouds indicate fair weather. Tall, dense clouds or clouds moving quickly across the sky show that bad weather is imminent.
  • Barometric pressure: Most, if not all, ships have a barometer. This instrument measures the pressure in the air. Low pressure is a sign of bad weather and is often accompanied by a quick drop in temperature.
  • Animal behavior: Animals have an acute ability to sense changes in the weather. Particularly when you’re at sea, the presence of birds or lack thereof is a helpful indication of the weather. Most birds will flee to shore or seek protection on your vessel when inclement weather is in the air.
  • Sun halos: The light from the sun can highlight moisture in the air that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye. If there’s a significant amount of humidity in the air, a large ring will appear around the sun. This is usually an indication that there is bad weather on the horizon. The tighter the ring is around the sun, the more time you have before the storm is likely to hit.

Put safety first

Rough waters and bad weather at sea can cause decks to become slippery and hazardous. It can also toss loose or unsecured ship equipment around, making your work environment a danger to your safety. Although it can be frustrating when bad weather keeps you from working, your safety should come first.

Even knowing what warning signs to look for, it isn’t uncommon for bad weather to catch seamen unaware. If you suffered an injury due to inclement weather, you should know what legal options you have to recover compensation for your injuries.