Painted capstan or windlass drum ends can create hazards, says a safety alert from the Marine Safety Forum. According to the auditor writing to MSF, the dangers are under-appreciated and says that such drums should not be prettied up with paintwork but many masters do not seethe danger.
Some time ago the writer was involved in investigating an incident where a seaman had damaged his wrist during a mooring operation. Part of the root cause was identified as resulting from the capstan drum end having been painted. The last eight ships audited by the writer all had painted capstan or windlass drum ends and two masters argued that there is nothing wrong with painting them.
The problem associated with this practice is that the paint itself is the hazard.
As the rope is surged on the drum, it creates friction which melts the paint. As soon as the surging is stopped, the paint solidifies and glues the rope to the drum. The rope will not surge and cannot be slacked until the bond is broken, usually with a corresponding jump in the rope. This jump is easily capable of breaking a wrist or worse.
Says the writer: “As an auditor relying on competencies learnt dozens of years ago, it is difficult when another Master does not agree with a finding and consequently it is necessary to look for supporting documentation”.
In respect of this particular issue, the writer suggests an excellent publication that may be found online published by “Seahealth” entitled “Mooring – Do it Safely”. This guide notes: “Drum parts that do not come in contact with the line can be painted, but the central working part of the drum or capstan must be kept free of paint, rust or grease. Drum ends should be smooth and coated with a thin layer of boiled linseed oil or other approved synthetic liquid for protection”.
“Too many accidents have happened while using stoppers. The operation where you connect the stopper to the line should be done very quickly since the whole tension is transferred to the stopper and things can quickly go wrong if too many snags arise. If too many turns have been made on the drum or the line has burnt itself into paint, this can lead to delay and cause the stopper to part and an accident happen”.