Lessons Learnt: Crew injured on deck in heavy weather
Vessel Type: Bulk Carrier
This fully laden bulk carrier was on passage in the Mediterranean Sea during winter. The bosun and a cadet were instructed to wash down the vessel’s main deck and hatch covers of cargo dust which had accumulated during the previous cargo loading operation. The wind at this time was logged as SE Beaufort force 7 with sea state described as very rough. Whilst the seamen were handling the hose on the starboard side, a wave was shipped onto the main deck, sweeping them heavily against the adjacent cargo hold hatch coamings. Both sustained multiple injuries requiring the vessel to deviate to land the seamen ashore for urgent hospital treatment.
The seamen were very lucky to escape with their lives in this case and additionally fortunate that the vessel was not remote from shore medical facilities. They could very easily have become fatalities by their injuries and/or lost overboard. In the weather conditions described, it should have been fully anticipated that heavy seas could be shipped on deck, particularly on a loaded, low freeboard vessel. To have performed a low priority task such as washing down in these circumstances was reckless and should never have been permitted by the vessel’s command.
- No seafarers should be permitted on deck in conditions that the master considers adverse weather unless necessary for the safety of the ship, crew or the safety of life at sea
- Where possible, work on deck should be delayed until conditions have improved or deferred until the next port of call
- If work on deck in adverse weather is considered absolutely necessary, a full risk assessment and permit to work should be completed for work on deck in heavy weather
- Seafarers required to go on deck in adverse weather should wear a lifejacket suitable for working in, a safety harness which can be attached to deck lifelines and full personal protective equipment
- The bridge watch should also be informed in advance with the deck party and bridge maintaining visual and radio contact.
- Consideration should be given to altering the vessel’s course and/or speed to alleviate the vessels motion and reduce the probability of seas being shipped on deck