Jul 212011

Work at height remains work at height when it is carried out in a confined space, as a report into a fatality aboard the Vanuatu-registered bulk carrier Polska Walczaca from the Australian Transport Safety Board.  The fatality occured while the victim was intalling a repaired safety handrail on a platform 5 metres above the tank bottom of a cargo hold.

The victim did have a safety harness but was not wearing it, it was found on the platform from which he fell. He also appears not to have worn his hard hat properly, it was found without signs of impact damage some distance from the victim.

The two most obvious lessons are: wear a safety harness, wear a hardhat properly. However, there are other issues worth looking at.

The OS could only see as far as the second platform.

The platform on which the victim was working was cluttered with equipment which included a light, a welding machine and its power cables, a bucket of tools, a safety harness and sections of hand railing. There was no safety rail in place because that was the item being worked on. It is not known whether or not the victim’s fall was a result of tripping over a piece of equipment. That is was a possibility, an identifiable hazard.

An ordinary seaman was assisting the victim and remained on deck.  He heard the sound of the victim falling but could not see what had happened due to the light conditions – the only light was that on the third platform which was one metre above the platform itself. The OS had to enter the space to see farther than the second platform.

The ATSB reports concludes:

  • It is likely that, when he fell, the storekeeper was working on the third platform of Polska Walczaca’s number five cargo hold ladder, about 5 m above the tank top.
  • The third platform did not have any hand railings. The storekeeper had removed the hand railings and was in the process of re-fitting them when he fell.
  • The storekeeper was not wearing an appropriately fitted and tethered safety harness when he fell.
  • The storekeeper was wearing a hardhat when he fell, but its chinstrap was probably not properly fastened. As a result, the hardhat did not offer the protection it may have had it been properly secured.

Other safety factors
It is possible that the storekeeper tripped over one of the many items that were on the small platform at the time. These items included a
light, a welding machine and its power cables, a bucket of tools, a safety harness and sections of hand railing.

Download full report



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