Captain David Nichol has written for UK P&I Club on an incident involving an engineer’s fall of more than two metres from a containership platform to the deck below.
A duty engineer and oiler were assigned the job of replacing a damaged diesel generator exhaust gas thermometer. This action required a section of the exhaust manifold to be dismantled.
A pre-work meeting was held and all necessary tools and equipment made ready. After first removing the manifold covers and a section of insulation to gain access, the engineer used a compressed air hose to blow away particles of dust and dirt from the exposed exhaust pipe.
However, while doing this, he leant backwards to avoid dust blowing into his face, and as a result he lost his balance and fell from the platform on to the deck more than two metres below, breaking his collarbone (clavicle). The engineer was given first aid and hospitalised at the next port of call where other soft tissue injuries to arm and shoulder were diagnosed.
Captain Nichol observed that, by design, the generator engine platform was fitted with a single fixed guard rail of about one metre in height, but had no lower intermediate rail. This meant that when the engineer lost his balance, having crouched down to perform his work, he was able to fall between the rail and the platform.
After performing a post-accident assessment, the crew fitted horizontal chains half way between the upper rail and the platform. At the time of the accident, the vessel was rolling in a moderate sea and swell. This might have contributed to the engineer losing his balance.
Captain Nichol said that a thorough on-site risk assessment prior to commencement of work could have identified the hazard. This would have enabled appropriate precautions to be taken, by way of rigging additional guards or the wearing of a safety harness.
UK Club said that, where there was risk of personnel falling from elevated access platforms, walkways or open hatchways, top and intermediate guard rails should be fitted or rigged in such a way as to prevent persons falling through.
In addition, seafarers should carefully consider the necessity of performing work aloft when a ship is rolling and pitching in a seaway.
Compressed air can be very effective for cleaning surfaces and components but it must be used with care, never directed at body parts and with all appropriate PPE worn