Lessons Learnt: Fall in Cargo Hold

Universal Fall in Cargo Hold
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Vessel Type

Bulk Carrier

Incident description

The crew were instructed to clean the vessel’s cargo holds in preparation for the next cargo. The vessel was underway with sea conditions recorded as slight with no ship movement. In order to gain better access to the upper areas of the hold, the crew arranged to position the high pressure washing equipment on top of portable staging erected on the tank top. The staging was approximately 6 metres in height and lashed to the ship’s structure to keep it stable. In addition, a safety line was rigged across the hold to which the seaman on top of the staging could attach a safety harness. When it was required to re-position the staging, the crew released the lashings and pushed the apparatus across the tank top. During this movement, the seaman on top of the staging lost his balance and fell down on to the tank top, sustaining serious injuries. The vessel deviated to enable helicopter evacuation of the casualty.


It is apparent that the seaman on top of the staging disconnected his safety harness from the lifeline at some time before the incident. Work aloft in any circumstances requires careful planning and implementation of appropriate safety precautions. When a ship is at sea, the necessity of performing such work should be very carefully considered, particularly taking into account the possibility of unexpected ship motion and the limitations of available equipment. In the case of hold cleaning, the crew are not expected to take unreasonable risks in complying with a commercial requirement of presenting clean holds in readiness to load the next cargo.

Lessons Learnt

  • The necessity of crew performing work aloft at sea should always be carefully appraised and subject to a risk assessment
  • When hold cleaning, crew safety takes full priority over operational requirements
  • During work aloft, the safety harness should remain attached to a lifeline and strongpoint at all times
  • Work aloft must always be properly supervised and subject to a Permit to Work
  • If crew of any rank have safety concerns when carrying out a task, stop the job and re-assess the situation

For more information please get in touch with the UK Club Loss Prevention team who will be pleased to assist you.


UK Club Loss Prevention