Having your eyes open isn’t much good unless they’re pointing in the right direction. That’s a lesson learned the hard way by an OS aboard the Danish registered general cargo ship Ann Rousing in August at El Ferrol, Spain.
The ship is equipped with heavy metal folding hatch covers that roll along a coaming and are controlled by a lever in a box around 30cm to 40cxm above the deck. When the lever is released the hatch coivers stop moving automatically.
With his foot an OS was operating a lever to close a folding hatch cover, supporting himself with a hand on the hatch coaming. Another OS was working nearby. As he operated the lever, the OS took his eyes of his job and looked over to his crewmate.
It was then that the hatch cover rolled over his hand, inflicting an undoubtedly painful fracture that required hospital treatment.
Where not to put your hand
A moment of distraction that could have happened to almost anyone, true, but the incident highlights the need for procedures to be followed properly.
At the time of the incident, the injured OS had been aboard for 10 days but had worked a previous contract for four weeks. Shipboard familiarisation was given and a check list, with a box for ‘Deck cranes/derricks and
‘, was completed. He wasn’t instructed in hatch cover operations ands was just told to go away and read them. Among the written instructions was the warning “Injuries of hands if You are holding to the hatch coaming while operating…” (sic).
That, frankly, is not a good way of emphasising safety issues and the Danish investigators have recommended that the shipowner include instructions in its ship board familiarisation process.
Placement of lever set a trap for the unwary
So, perhaps the first lesson: ensure that safety related instructions are given, and demonstrated, during shipboard familiarisation, don’t rely on the seafarer to read up on them.
Placement of the lever wasn’t thought through very well. When operated with a foot it was a natural, and dangerous, act to put a hand on the hatch coaming for support. If there’s one like it on your ship, it’s a trap waiting to snap at the unwary. Recommendations from the investigators include moving the lever to a location at which hands can’t rest on hatch coamings or installing screening arrangements at control stations. You might take a look at arrangements on your ship.
The official report also notes that no safety watch was kept with someone standing by to press the emergency stop button. When moving heavy equipment, which includes hefty metal hatch covers, it’s wise to set up a safety watch – it could save more than your hand.
Not specifically mentioned in the report is a Job Safety Assessment,JSA, and toolbox talk. The warning in the written instructions suggests that a JSA had been done and the hazards known. It’s seems fairly obvious that there was no toolbox talk prior to the job being carried out. A toolbox talk, which need only take a couple of minutes, involves clarifying who is going to do what, the equipment available, the hazards and the safety procedures to mitigate those hazards.
Chances are that that if there had been a toolbox talk, the injured OS would have kept his eye on the job and his hand off the coaming.
Official Report here