Everyone who has gone to sea has participated in lifeboat drills.
Sometimes the boat is put into the water and goes for a short trip, sometimes it is just lowered to the embarkation deck. It is just part of the everyday routine and one that everybody hopes they will never have to use.
We all have heard of the accidents associated with lifeboats, hooks letting go unexpectedly, usually tipping the occupants into the water before the boat falls on them.
"Oh, that will never happen to us, look at where that ship is flagged. Obviously the crew doesn't know what they are doing or too lazy to do their maintenance" and with a shrug of the shoulders it is off to another task. Or you hear about the FSR for a davit company doing the load testing on a davit installed on a tanker, and the davits being ripped off the deck, completely failing. "Another example of poor seamanship" we say. "The Captain is negligant in not reporting the problems to the company."
The reality is sobering. Even in well run ships and shipping companies, surveys of davits and lifeboats can show equipment that is teetering on the edge. Cables that are damaged, allowing the possibility of the hooks to be opened with the flick of wrench while sitting on the cradle. Modifications of the hydrostatic releases by crew or hooks installed backwards.
In 2001 MAIB published a Review of lifeboats and launching systems' accidents. It is a 48 page document available online at http://www.maib.gov.uk/publications/safety_studies/review_of_lifeboats_and_launching_systems_accidents.cfm
and it is a sobering document to read.
Within the last few years the local TC office has insisted that the davit manucturer's field service rep (FSR) inspect all lifesaving davits. We grumble at the cost, but when it comes down to it you can't put a price on someone's life.