Case Study: Deadly fall into unprotected hold on a Container Ship

Case Study: Deadly fall into unprotected hold on a Container Ship

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Last updated on April 10th, 2021 at 06:47 am

A container vessel was in the process of loading. At one point, a crew member was seen walking on the raised catwalk adjacent to number 4 cargo hold, which was open and empty. It was early morning and a fine dew had wetted most of the steel surfaces of the vessel.

Suddenly, the crew member was seen to trip backward and fall into the empty hold number 4, a distance of about 14m. He remained motionless at the bottom of the hold and an evacuation procedure was initiated. Later that day he was pronounced dead at the shore hospital.

The ensuing investigation was unable to establish why the crew member was walking on the raised catwalk near the open hold. However, it was found that there were no barriers to prevent falling and that the narrow (70cm) catwalk was littered with loose securing gear that made walking on that surface hazardous.


Lessons Learned

  • A combination of wet and cluttered surfaces and a lack of fall barriers resulted in a very hazardous work area. Then, the crew member made his fatal decision to enter that area without fall-arrest equipment.
  • We do not always make the best and safest ‘on-the-spot’ decisions. This is why strong procedural integrity and a robust safety culture are important safeguards against negative outcomes.

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