Jonathan O’Donnell, skipper of the fishing Vessel John Collins is currently recovering from injuries to his foot sustained in an incident which could have led to amputation. Unsafe working practices and lack of effect safeguards led to him being caught up in a rotating propeller shaft says a newly released accident investigation report from Eire’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB.
While it was proceeding home the vessel’s bilge alarm sounded and after pumping out the bilge it sounded again shortly afterwards. The skipper went into the fish hold and lifted the covering boards over the bilge containing the pump and the propeller shaft.
The engine was not stopped or put into neutral and the shaft was turning. The skipper put his foot into the bilge beside the turning shaft in order to reach down to clear debris from the bilge pump.
His waterproof leggings were caught by the coupling on the shaft and his left leg was wound around the shaft about two times. He shouted to the crew and the engine was quickly stopped.
The tibia, fibula and ankle bones of his left leg were broken with considerable soft tissue damage. The leg did not require amputation and it is currently healing well with prospects of full recovery of function and movement.
In its analysis the MCIB says: “The general safe working practice with revolving shafts, belt or gear drives is to stop the machinery before removing any protective covers or screens. This basic safe practice was not adhered to in this case, and the danger was further increased by the moving platform of a vessel at sea and the type of clothing being
worn by the casualty (baggy loose fitting waterproof trousers)”.
However, the MCIB comments: “Safety should not be only reliant on safe working practices being adhered to and the statutory requirement for protection from moving parts is given S.I. No. 299 of 2007 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007, Section 33”.