A recent Safety Flash by the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) focuses on an incident in which a crewmember suffered a fractured pelvis falling 4-5 metres from a temporary access ladder onboard a cargo vessel.
he ladder was installed at a previous equipment mobilisation following realisation that the permanent access / egress hatches to the cargo hold had been blocked. The ladder was secured to a small access platform off the ‘tween deck by means of ratchet straps. The platform edge was 5 metres in height with no handrails or fall prevention and the ladder could only be accessed by stepping over the ratchet straps at the exposed edge.
On previously attempting to access the cargo, the injured person found that the hatches were blocked. He was aware of the ladder, also that it has been successfully used by other persons and believing it to be safe, started to descend. He was alone at this time, it was raining heavily and the equipment and his working attire and PPE were wet. On negotiating the top rungs, he slipped and fell backwards 4 metres to the deck below.
What went wrong
- Use of the ladder was not risk assessed and no working at height / fall protection mitigations were applied. There was no Management of Change applied when the ladder was installed. A work environment was created which influenced crew to use the ladder, creating a “routine violation”;
- The crew person involved (a Rigging Supervisor) boarded the vessel at an interim mobilisation. There were no ISPS controls, inductions or familiarisations for visitors, who were not accompanied nor made aware of restricted areas on the vessel;
- It was raining heavily and the injured person’s clothing, gloves and footwear (PPE) were wet;
- Stop Work Authority was not exercised – visitors accepted the different HSE standards of the sub-contractor and did not challenge non-compliance. All personnel boarding the vessel at the various mobilisations had the opportunity to challenge the unsafe ladder condition but did not;
- Deck Drawings and review did not identify locations of access/egress hatches leading to them being blocked by mobilised equipment.
What was the cause
IMCA members drew the following conclusion about root causes:
- Insufficient detail in Cargo Hold Drawing to create a safe load plan
- Design review did not assess safe cargo hold access/egress, stretcher routes and safe movement of personnel;
- Failure to conduct verification activities and ensure compliance.
- Poor risk perception / culture in that personnel did not carry organisational expectations onto a subcontractor worksite;
- Lack of basic operational control.
Lessons and learned
- Ensure thorough review of sub-contractor safety arrangements, documents and compliance;
- Review of the sub-contractor’s load plans;
- Conduct verification activities to ensure a safe working environment and practices prior to starting work (focus on the nine Life Saving Rules and pre-start work checklists);
- Ensure robust worksite supervision and empower personnel to exercise ‘Stop Work Authority’.