According to the Club, injuries have due to bad maintenance or damage of ladder or because the ladder was set at the wrong angle, or on an unstable surface, or was not properly secured at the base or top. Vessel movement in rough weather can also be a contributory factor and crew using ladders whilst working alone was a feature of a number of cases.

In a recent case the Club described, two crew members were painting aloft using a portable ladder. Although a risk assessment had been carried out prior to starting the work and the ladder was secured, the crew member aloft was not using a safety harness in contravention of the operator’s Safety Management System and the risk assessment. To enable work to progress, the assisting crew member needed to fetch tools and, while doing so, witnessed the crew member aloft stretch his arm to an area that was difficult to reach area and slip off the ladder. The resulting fall caused spinal injuries and permanent paralysis of the lower body.

As a result, the Club advises crews to:

Credit: Steamship Mutual Club

  • Carry out a risk assessment and toolbox talk before starting the job.
  • Review your company’s Safety Management System for guidance on working at height.
  • Check the ladder is clean and in good condition before using it. If damaged do not use it.
  • Check how much load the ladder can take.
  • Consider how the ladder can be secured at the top and bottom before starting.
  • Check the place where the ladder will stand to ensure the base is stable, dry and clear of tools and equipment that may cause slipping or shifting of the ladder.
  • Consider the prevailing weather conditions and how these may affect the vessel’s motion.
  • Make sure the ladder is pitched between 60° and 75° from the horizontal.
  • Provide a clearance of at least 150mm behind the rungs.
  • Make sure the ladder is properly secured against slipping or moving sideways at the base and the top by using a lashing.
  • Wear a safety harness which is connected to a strong place on the vessel’s structure above the ladder.
  • Always face the ladder and keep three points in contact with it, i.e., two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot.
  • Make sure enough lighting is available to illuminate the ladder and work place.
  • Use wooden or fibreglass ladder when electrical hazards may be present.

Further information may be found herebelow: