Asia Maritime Pacific (AMP) has classed use of scaffolding as “working at heights” following an accident, which resulted in a fatality. In addition, pre-joining training now includes the use of scaffolding.

The accident with unstable and unsecured scaffolding falling over occurred on board bulk carrier Shanghai Spirit near Port Alma, Queensland, on 29 January 2017. As a result, one crew member lost his life.The official report was released in February this year and the incident was covered in the August 2019 Mars Reports. A transcript of what happened:

On a general cargo ship at anchor, crew cleaned No 1 hold using the ship’s mobile scaffolding tower to access areas around the top of the hold and under the main deck. The next day they started similar work in No 2 hold. The ship had a slight trim aft, so the angle on the tank top was about 1.5 degrees by the stern.

Once cleaning at the forward end of the hold was completed the scaffolding was moved aft to continue the work. Immediately after this repositioning, two seamen climbed the tower to resume work on the underside of the deck head. As they reached the top platform, the entire tower fell towards the after bulkhead. The two men fell about twelve metres to the tank top as the platform scraped down the bulkhead. Although the victims received first aid and were evacuated to a hospital, one was later pronounced deceased.

The investigation found that the scaffolding was of sound construction, in reasonable condition and correctly erected. Rubber tracked castors fitted at each bottom corner allowed the structure to be moved easily and the castors could be locked to prevent unintended movement.

To help secure and stabilise this inherently unstable structure with a high centre of gravity and narrow base, rope lashings or guy ropes were normally secured to the scaffolding at the section below the working platform. These ropes were then led through permanent eyes welded around the inside of the cargo holds and then down to the tank top level.

It appears that after the last move, the two men had climbed back to the platform before, or while, the rope lashings were being re-secured. It also is likely that the castors had not been locked. Although both men were reportedly wearing hard hats, safety belts and lanyards, these were not secured.

Measures Taken by the Shipping Company

Shipping company APM has taken the following measures to prevent any further scaffolding accidents:

  • The scaffolding equipment operating instructions and maintenance manuals/guidelines have been included in the company’s safety management system. Further, there is now a requirement for monthly and quarterly inspection of the equipment.
  • The use of scaffolding is now specifically classed as “working at heights” and is therefore subject to all planning and precautionary measures such as risk assessment, working aloft permits and precautions.
  • Personnel Protective Equipment training and awareness has been reviewed and enhanced. Additionally, new crewmembers will be subject to pre-joining training that now includes the use of scaffolding.

Best Practices When Using Scaffolding

  • The scaffolding had a height to base length ratio of about 5.2:1. Best practice requires securing guy ropes for a structure of this kind.
  • Castors on scaffolds should be locked before use.
  • Once in place at height, always secure yourself to a safe spot with fall prevention devices.

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the August Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 201949, that are part of Report Number 322. A selection of this Report has also been published in SWZ|Maritime’s September issue. The Mars Reports are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website to help prevent maritime accidents.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.

Picture: Bulk carrier Shanghai Spirit (by Gary Houston).