The incident

A tug was secured alongside undergoing scheduled maintenance when contractors arrived to start some work on the fire alarm system.

The tug’s regular crew were not onboard so an AB from a different tug of the same company helped them initially.

To undertake the work, the contractors had to remove an access panel from the wheelhouse.

When the tug’s master and crew embarked, the AB from the other tug explained that there were contractors on board, but gave no further details.

The master went to the wheelhouse to complete some paperwork and was badly injured when he accidentally fell through the unguarded hatchway into the space below.


Lessons learned

  1. Any openings in the deck should be guarded by suitable barriers. These barriers should remain in place until all work has been completed and the opening has been shut and secured. An appropriate risk assessment should be carried out before any work commences. Such a risk assessment would have identified the hazard in opening a deck hatch and would have helped identify suitable control measures to protect the health and safety of the contractors and the crew.
  2. Safety management systems should include arrangements for contractors working onboard. Contractors should be made aware of the requirements of the safety management system and comply with it to ensure that their work does not endanger themselves or the crew.
  3. It is important to ensure that when any handover takes place all of the pertinent details are included. The AB was aware of the location of the work and was also aware that the hatch had been opened on the wheelhouse deck. Unfortunately, this critical information was not passed to the joining crew.


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