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MCIB Warns of Dangers of Working on Ships at Height In Report on Serious Fall

30th November 2022
A photograph taken by Vessel Crew on 11/08/2021 Post Incident
A photograph taken by Vessel Crew on 11/08/2021 Post Incident Credit: via MCIB report

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has said all ship crew and vessel operators need to be reminded of the potential dangers of working at height following its inquiry into a fall from an Irish cargo ship.

A 29-year-old Polish national working as a second officer with Arklow Shipping was seriously injured after he fell from the Arklow Clan, an 87.4 metre-long general cargo ship, while it was berthed in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The incident occurred at around 17.49 hours on August 11th 2021, while the ship, in ballast condition, was due to unload a cargo of scrap metal the following morning.

Three crewmembers had begun lowering the walkway handrails in preparation for loading operations.

Whilst lowering the handrails, the second officer lost his footing, falling around 3.6 metres (m) from the walkway to the quay below.

As a result of the impact, he sustained serious injuries to both his legs, necessitating an extensive period of hospitalisation, multiple surgeries, and rehabilitation. The man had two years of service with Arklow Shipping, and it was his second contract onboard the Arklow Clan.

Investigations into the cause of the incident were undertaken by Arklow Shipping, the vessel’s crew and Port of Aberdeen staff.

Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) and the MCIB were both notified by the master/ship Operator, with the MCIB subsequently investigating the incident.

The MCIB report says that working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries onboard vessels.

“ All the major P&I clubs (vessel insurers) have issued loss prevention circulars identifying the dangers of working at height both above and below deck,”it says.

“ A failure to adequately identify work hazards, poor planning and supervision remain contributory factors in the majority of working at height incidents,”it says.

It notes that onboard the Arklow Clan, it was “common practice not to wear harnesses when dropping the railings”.

“This culture and compliancy does not appear to be limited to the vessel, as an incident regarding lowered walkway handrails also occurred onboard the Arklow Vanguard, it says.

It says the lack of safety wires onboard 16 other vessels in the Arklow fleet was “persuasive evidence that the risks associated with handrail lowering operation were not appreciated by the crews or the vessel operator. In other words, the lack of a wire was not reported or deemed to constitute a hazard”.

The MCIB report says that Arklow Shipping identified the cause and rectified it quickly. It distributed a fleet circular letter on August 31st, 2021, advising all crew of the incidents at Manchester and Aberdeen with the walkway handrails.

“ The circular acknowledged the inadequacies of the procedures for lowering the handrails and set out new requirements,”it says.

The owner of the vessel, Arklow Shipping ULC, has said it accepts the report’s findings in a submission sent to the MCIB.

The MCIB says that the Minister for Transport should issue a marine notice to remind all crews and vessel operators of the potential dangers of working at height and their obligations to follow existing legislation and guidance in order to reduce any risks.

“This includes ensuring the task is risk assessed, subject to a permit to work, that crew are provided with a “toolbox talk” prior to commencing the task and the appropriate personal protection equipment( PPE) is available,” it says.

“ Crew must be provided with training in the correct use of PPE, and the PPE must be subject to regular inspections and recorded in a planned maintenance system, as per International Safety Management (ISM) Code (applicable to passenger ships and cargo vessels over 500 gross tonnes),” the report says.

The report is here

Published in MCIB, Ports & Shipping
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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