Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has recommended closer supervision and question the suitability of the belt harness from which a 14 year-old sea cadet released himself and fell from the yards of the T/S Royalist, hitting the gunwales below and from there entering the sea. He died of from severe chest injuries.
Sadly, another crewmember had shouted at Jonathan to re-attach his belt clip to a wire jackstay but he did not do so.Says the MAIB report: “On Sunday 2 May 2010, Jonathan Martin, a 14 year old sea cadet, fell from a yard on the fore mast of the sail training ship TS Royalist when the vessel was at anchor. The sea cadet was assisting other cadets to stow the fore course sail when he fell backwards and struck the
starboard gunwale 8m below, before falling into the sea.
He was quickly recovered from the water by the vessel’s sea boat and transferred to a coastguard helicopter which flew him to hospital. Sadly, the cadet died as a result of the severe injuries he had sustained.
This was the first fatality on board TS Royalist in her 39 years of service. The
sea cadet fell to the deck because he unclipped his belt harness from the wire
jackstay provided on the fore course yard, contrary to his training and onboard procedures for work at that position. However, the MAIB investigation has highlighted concerns regarding the supervision of the cadets when aloft on the vessel’s masts and rigging, and the suitability of the belt harnesses provided.
Unlike many adventurous training activities, sail training is self-regulating and is exempt from much of the health and safety at work regulation applicable elsewhere.
The MAIB is aware of two falls from the fore mast on board TS Royalist in
the 1980’s. In the first, a cadet fell overboard during an ‘up and over’ drill,
resulting in various fractures and the subsequent removal of the spleen. In the
second, a bosun fell from the fore mast shrouds and landed on a concrete jetty.
Fortunately, he was not seriously injured and the incident was attributed to over-confidence and exuberance.
Also in the 1980’s, the bosun’s mate on board TS Astrid fell overboard from aloft while at sea at night. He was recovered after approximately 15 minutes in the water, and suffered a broken arm and cheekbone.
In July 1994 a trainee on board TS Malcolm Miller slipped while attempting to
re-hook his safety harness when standing on the bowsprit. He fell overboard
and, although the vessel immediately reversed course, the trainee was not
found until 2 months later. Following the accident, the MAIB recommended that additional jackstays be fitted to make it unnecessary for crew and trainees to unclip their harnesses when working on the bowsprit.
In August 2004, a passenger was fatally injured on board the commercial sailing
vessel Albatros after climbing aloft and falling from the main mast ratlines.
The passenger appeared to ‘freeze’ when he was about 8m above the deck.
He then fell backwards and landed on the port gunwale before falling over
board. Contributory factors identified in the MAIB investigation (Report 7/2005) included:
• The lack of a safety management procedure.
• Inadequate briefing and supervision.
• The use of a restraint belt rather than an approved safety harness.
In 2007, the Nautical Institute’s Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme
(MARS) reported the fall of a trainee on board a sail training vessel. When at
the masthead the trainee clipped his harness tether to a backstay instead of a
fixed strong point. The trainee lost his footing and slid 20m down the backstay, striking the main topsail with a glancing blow before landing on the cap rail and sustaining a number of fractures.
Recommendations have been made to the Marine Society & Sea Cadets and
the Royal Navy aimed at improving the safety of cadets by addressing the
safety issues identified and, through the development of assurance procedures, to ensure that the risks to cadets participating in this challenging, but potentially dangerous activity, are reduced to and kept as low as reasonably practicable.