“Hands on Handle Only”, that is, only objects that have handles are to be lifted/moved by hand, other loads can be guided using tag lines and/or push pull sticks. The Nautical Institute gives this advice after a crew member suffered a hand injury while removing a heavy pipe.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

A tanker went to a calm anchorage after discharging cargo. Some engine room crew were preparing to do a job that involved removing a heavy pipe which was accessed from the lower platform of the engine room. Once the pipe flanges from both ends of the section were unbolted, the pipe was lowered under control by the use of chain blocks. During lowering, the piece became entangled with other adjacent pipes.

The attending crew attempted to shift the pipe to pass between the other pipes. One crew was standing in an awkward and improvised position, holding the pipe to maintain his balance. When the pipe swung clear, the flange crushed his left thumb. The victim was taken to the ship’s hospital for first aid, but quickly transferred to a shore hospital. After several days he was repatriated.

Investigation findings

The company investigation found, among other things, that:

  • Additional hazards for heavy lifting procedures in confined spaces were not accounted for as the victim was maintaining his balance in an improvised manner.
  • No extra ropes were used to control and support the pipe, leading to the uncontrolled movement of the heavy pipe.

Advice from The Nautical Institute

In addition to the advice above, The Nautical Institute advises that:

  • manipulating heavy objects in awkward positions requires good planning and execution to avoid bad consequences;
  • this was a simple task that nonetheless resulted in a repatriation. No task is too simple to take for granted!