Safety alert: improve quayside access, conduct man-overboard drills
May 10, 2021 Maritime Safety News
The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said vessels should be easily accessible from docksides to prevent seafarers from injury or death after falling into the sea.
MAIB investigators also recommended tug operators conduct regular man-overboard drills to ensure crew work effectively to recover seafarers that have fallen. These warnings and recommendations come from the MAIB’s accident investigations involving tugs in the last three years which includes the death of a tug chief engineer who fell from a fender while attempting to return to a vessel following unmooring operations. In another accident, a seafarer fell between an aggregate barge and a quayside, but was recovered from the sea without major injury.
“In many similar incidents, including a number investigated by the MAIB, people have been killed or seriously injured,” said the MAIB. “When berthing or unberthing, shore-based linesmen should be employed,” it recommended. “Access to and from an unmoored vessel is a very dangerous activity, and should be avoided.”
However, if shore-based linesmen are not available and crew need to conduct line operations, there are procedures to follow – which do not include jumping over distances and taking unsafe risks.
“Jumping any distance to get ashore or onto another vessel is extremely dangerous, even more so when the landing surface is slippery,” said the MAIB. “Stepping across a small gap may be acceptable provided the vessel is stopped and held alongside securely, but the crossing should be level.”
In his safety digest introduction, MAIB chief inspector of marine accidents Andrew Moll said these are common accidents that can be avoided. “We have seen accidents many times before involving unsafe access,” he said. “As mariners we take pride in our ability to get the job done, but many of the accidents reported here could have been avoided had those involved taken a little more time to assess the risks before getting on with the job. Doing your job should not involve putting yourself in danger.”
Quayside infrastructure, such as ladders and gangways would make access to workboats, barges and tugs easier and safer to access.
Guidance on safe access ashore is given in MGN 591 (M+F) and the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers (COSWP).
In addition, “all methods of access to vessels must be robustly risk assessed,” said the MAIB, “and it is the owners’ and masters’ responsibility to ensure that safe access is provided, and used correctly, every time.”
Accident investigators warned vessel operators not to allow unsafe access methods to become normal practice. “Just because something has become normal practice does not make it safe. If you think something is unsafe, speak up,” the MAIB said.
But if an accident does happen, having a well-drilled crew can be the difference between life and death.