Accident Report: Work aloft without precautions proves fatal

Edited from the official Accident Investigation Board of Norway report Marine 2017-04

The loaded vessel was underway and rolling moderately in the swells. A crew member was performing maintenance on the free-fall lifeboat; a lashing turnbuckle for the lifeboat had corroded and the job involved rust removal and painting of the turnbuckle. No work permit had been issued for this job, since the work would take place at a height of just over one metre and in an area secured by railings.

While completing the turnbuckle job the crew member noticed the forward hook for the free-fall lifeboat needed lubrication. This job was at height so he asked another crew member to assist him by steadying a ladder he had already positioned on deck below the lifeboat to reach the hook. The height from the deck to the hook was 4.8 metres; the ladder was 5 metres long and was equipped with rubber feet at the bottom of each leg, but these were heavily worn.

Apart from the steadying effort of the assisting crew member, the ladder was not otherwise secured and was made more unstable because both feet were not in firm contact with the deck.

According to the assisting crew member, who had apparently voiced his concerns about the safety issues involved with the task, the other crew member insisted on continuing without a safety line or permit to work aloft. The assisting crew member held on to the lower part of the ladder while the other crew member climbed up. When the crew member had climbed part of the way up the ladder it suddenly slipped on the deck. The assisting crew member was unable to keep it steady, and the victim fell and ended up motionless on the deck next to the ladder.

The alarm was raised and first aid was administered to the victim. Two and a half hours later, before shore rescue could arrive, the victim stopped breathing. He was later pronounced dead.

Lessons learned
– Never work aloft without a work permit and without taking the proper precautions to prevent falling.
– If you are in doubt about safety insist on stopping the work and re-evaluate. Get a second opinion from your superiors.
– Use your equipment properly. Ensure that ladders are properly secured against tipping and the weight evenly distributed on the supporting legs.


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