Perceiving to have control of a situation should never get in the way of safety measures. The Nautical Institute gives this warning in its latest Mars Report in which a crew member fell from height after not making use of his double lanyard.

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 loaded bulk carrier was at sea. The deck crew were washing and cleaning cargo hold no. 7, which had remained empty. The crew members had donned their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which included a twin-lanyard safety harness for the crew member who would be working at height. The hatch covers were opened and a portable ladder was rigged on the starboard side, forward over the hopper and just abaft of the corrugated transverse bulkhead. The portable ladder was secured next to the fixed steel ladder. A guide rope and a safety line were secured across the upper reaches of the cargo hold.

Two crew were working aft while the other crew member aloft was forward, standing on one of the stiffeners at a height of about 7.5 metres above the tank top. He was using a power washer and a hand-held broom to wash off coal residues that had remained in this area.

Also read: Crew member dies after falling into hold through open hatch

Suddenly, the two crew members aft were alerted by a loud scream. They saw the victim had fallen from the stiffeners and was lying on the tank top, and rushed to aid him. The victim was conscious, bleeding slightly from the head, and complaining of severe chest and back pain. The accident was reported to the bridge and first aid was administered. The victim was then carefully evacuated from the cargo hold and taken to the ship’s hospital, where his condition was continuously monitored. At the time, the vessel was approximately 150 nm off the coast.

Following communication with shore medical authorities, the master altered course and proceeded towards the coast. The following morning the victim was air-lifted by helicopter to a local hospital. Injuries were severe, but not life threatening. The victim was returned to his home country for medical follow-up and recovery.

A double lanyard was left unattached and the crew member fell from this height within the hold.
Area of work aloft.

‘Get the work done’

The victim confirmed during the post-accident interview that at one point just before the fall, both of his safety lines had been unsecured. The investigative agency found, among other things, that the actions of the victim were similar to several other instances on file where the need to “get the work done” seems to override safety concerns, even where the situation was not an emergency.

It would appear that if the person in question perceives that they have “control” of the situation, this influences their decision making process and evaluation of risk.

Also read: Practices should match procedures: Lethal fall from height inside a hold

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Qualitative risk evaluation is subjective and can be affected by factors such as the person’s perceived control over the situation, the familiarity or even “shock value” of the risk. Mundane tasks are a breeding ground for misplaced judgement, even those that present severe risks.
  • Safety harnesses are equipped with two lanyards for the express purpose of always having one connected while the other one is repositioned. Make sure you and your crew mates use them correctly.

Also read: Crew member dies after falling into unprotected hold

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202247, that are part of Report Number 361. A selection of this Mars Report was also published in SWZ|Maritime’s December 2022 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published (in full) on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

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.