The Bahamas Maritime Authority published its report focusing on a fall accindent onboard the Bahamas-registered bulk carrier, Star Planet.
On 04 June 2021, the Bahamas registered bulk carrier, Star Planet, was on passage through the Australian Bight, bound for Adelaide to load grain. In the afternoon, with the vessel rolling with an amplitude of around five degrees, the chief officer entered hold 7.
The chief officer was alone in the hold, the hatches were closed and the only light source was the portable torch he was carrying.
Whilst ascending the hold’s vertical ladder, he slipped and fell approximately 9m to the tank top. He was discovered by a member of the crew shortly afterwards and the medical first aid team mobilised to provide care, following medical advice from ashore, but the chief officer died approximately an hour after the fall.
- The ladder had no fall protection and the chief officer was not wearing a harness or other fall protection device.
- Aside from the ladder design, the enclosed, dark, environment and vessel’s movement increased the risk of a fall. The vessel’s safety management system included a requirement on the use of a climbing harness when climbing vertical ladders. However, the policy was not effectively communicated or enforced.
- There are numerous instances of seafarers falling from height to their death but risk perception remains low.
- A consistent and exhaustive definition of working at height may lead to more effective hazard identification and mitigation measures but talking to seafarers about work in terms of likelihood and potential outcomes of falls from height may be a more successful strategy.
- Company-wide, generic risk assessments are useful to ensure that the safety management system includes appropriate policies, procedures and work instructions, but they cannot identify all the hazards on a specific ship or for each task.
- Vessel-specific risk assessments, dealing with routine and low-risk tasks, should be conducted on each vessel by those involved in the work and be supplemented by task-specific risk assessments for high-risk jobs that are not routine, such as cargo hold preparation.
- These task-specific risk assessments should be completed by a competent person who understands the full scope of the work and should involve seafarers who will be completing the task.
- Talking through the risk assessment’s hazards and barriers with the seafarers involved, as part of a toolbox talk, reinforces what precautions need to be taken to complete the job safely.