August 27, 2018 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: Simple Ship Repair Results in Fatal Fall

The accident
A crew member was making repairs to the surrounding handrails of the lowest of three intermediate platforms built into a cargo hold access ladder. The platform was designed as a landing to hold a single person while moving from one section of the cargo hold access ladder to the next. The ship was at sea, and the cargo hatch covers were closed. The handrails had been removed for repair, and the crew member was preparing to refit them to the platform. The lower platform was five meters above the tank top. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident. It was concluded that the crew member tripped or slipped from the platform and, as he was not wearing a safety harness, he fell to the tank top below. He died from multiple injuries.

Contributing factors
What caused the crew member to slip from the platform?

  1. The platform was cluttered with equipment that the crew member was using to effect the repairs and was not guarded by handrails, making the platform a congested and dangerous place to work.
  2. A single halogen light had been rigged about one meter above the platform. The light was another obstacle that the crew member had to work around.
  3. Although shipboard procedures required the crew member to use a safety harness for the task, he was not wearing one at the time. Wearing a safety harness and connecting it to a secure point would have arrested his fall.

Lessons learned
Working at any height without the protection of handrails creates a hazardous situation. It is crucial for seafarers to follow industry best practices—such as wearing a safety harness and connecting it to a secure point—whenever working from a height. Equally important, light should be abundantly sufficient to illuminate the immediate task and general working areas of workers and should cause no obstruction to workers. Finally, task areas should be clutter-free, prepped in advance for free unobstructed access.

This accident was reported by the Australian Transportation Safety Board.

Circumstances can crop up anywhere at any time if proper and safe sequence and procedures are not planned and followed. We encourage you to learn and use the TapRooT® System to find and fix problems. Attend one of our courses. We offer a basic 2-Day Course and an advanced 5-Day Course. You may also contact us about having a course at your site.

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