The Incident

During poor weather conditions, an 18m gill-netter was moving to new fishing grounds. In the beginning of the journey, two deckhands were in the aft compartment using a ‘net flaking’ machine to take the twists out of the net, clear the weed and arrange the net into a bin ready for shooting.

Although the aft compartment was designed to allow the nets to be flaked into the bins by one person using the machine with a wired remote control, on this occasion an off-duty deckhand had gone to help.

As the boat rolled in the swell, one of the deckhands reached to the deckhead above with his left hand to keep steady; Yet, he caught hold of the flaking machine’s rack and pinion arrangement just as the other deckhand operated the machine’s remote control.

The resulting movement of the pinion trapped the deckhand’s little finger, causing him to shout out in pain and tell the other deckhand to move the machine back. When the machine was moved, the deckhand who had his hand trapped shouted again, misleading the other deckhand to think that he had moved the machine the wrong way. Therefore, because the latter panicked, he moved the machine in the opposite way, causing its pinion to run across the deckhand’s trapped fingers.

The other crew when heard the shouting rushed to help. Once freed from the rack and pinion the injured fisherman was moved into the accommodation, where his glove was cut off and the skipper was able to see that four fingers on the crewman’s left hand were partially severed.

The injured crew was transmitted by a helicopter to a hospital where an Xray revealed the injuries.

Fortunately, largely due to the first-aid treatment that had been given to the casualty by his crew mates on board, the hospital staff were able to save three of his partially severed fingers.

Lessons Learned

  1. Unguarded machinery is an ever-present risk that can - and does - catch people unawares, and often causes life-changing injuries, or worse.
  2. During a stressful or traumatic event it is very difficult to keep your head, and panic is a natural reaction. Although such situations generally demand quick thinking, a second or two to take stock and find out exactly what has happened before taking action can prevent a drama from becoming a crisis.
  3. It is always hoped that first-aid training will never be put to the test, but in this case its benefits to the injured man were immeasurable. When an injury occurs at sea outside help is seldom close at hand, so it is reassuring to know that those around you know what to do.