If it ain’t broke fixing it may break it is the message from the US Coast Guard in a safety alert regarding embarkation hull ladder magnets after a State Pilot fell suffered concussion as he was boarding a vessel using its pilot ladder. In this case the modified magnet arrangement disconnected, fell, and hit the pilot on the head.
It wasn’t the first such accident to be caused by a modified magnet arrangement. Other incidents with injuries have occurred on other vessels at several different ports, says the USCG. In each instance the hull magnets were modified prior to the accident. Moreover, in all cases, after restoring the hull magnets to their original design no further problems were experienced.
Hull magnets are easy to operate and when positioned correctly, provide substantial holding force. The handle of the magnet is also a lever and enables easy release from the hull of the vessel. The intended proper use of the magnets is shown on the right.
In the incidents where the magnets unexpectedly detached from the hull, only one securing magnet was used between the rails of the ladder along with equipment alterations that deviated from the manufacturer’s design.
So, if you’ve been fiddling with your magnets, don’t. Put them back as they were to be used as their designed to be used.
The US Coast Guard also strongly recommends that “vessel owners/operators refrain from modifying embarkation equipment. In addition, operators should regularly inspect existing vessel boarding equipment and return improper modifications back to the manufacturer’s original design”.
Pilots are encouraged to consult with their appropriate associations to determine if any additional precautions should be taken as part of their normal boarding practices and this identified risk.