Observed from a tug nearby standing by a vehicle carrier of 52000 Gross Tons (about to leave harbour), a crewman onboard a vehicle carrier change a stern light lamp, disregarding basic safety principles.
Extracts from the information passed to CHIRP. ‘Whilst we [in the reporter’s tug] were waiting, we observed one of the crew members of the [ship] stand on the bulwark cap and reach overboard to change a lamp in the stern light which was above and inboard of where the crew member was standing. There was no life jacket or safety harness worn. Another crew member held the ankle of the crew member who was reaching out to the stern light. A slip or fall could have easily occurred resulting in certain injury’.
The lessons to be learnt
There is evidence here of a lax safety culture and standards. The ship was about to sail; it is likely that a pre-sailing navigation light check showed a malfunctioning stern light. Time was running short. A crewman was probably sent ‘at the rush’. Was there time for proper consideration of the risk; was this sort of work within the ship’s ‘permission to work’ framework? ‘Working at Height’ procedures were certainly ignored. Did the bridge know exactly when the man was over the side, and when back inboard. It is to be assumed that there were no means of fitting the new lamp from inboard. Obvious design faults like this are becoming more common. Good culture and alertness were shown in the tug whose crew took the trouble to report this case.
Don’t be rushed into dangerous practices. Most of us have ‘been there’: there’s an unexpected problem, a tide or an ETA to make, a repair to be done quickly. These are the moments when corners are often cut; when it’s vital to pause, think, and ensure the right precautions are being taken. Maintain safety standards routinely. If this doesn’t happen, procedures are much more likely to be rushed or ignored when the unexpected comes up. If corners are regularly cut, ships’ crews stop noticing, and an ‘It won’t happen to me’ culture creeps in. When the accident happens, it’s too late to reconsider.