The need for “toolbox talks” for even the most basic of tasks on board a ship was stressed in the first Safety Digest for this year from the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB). In the report, Steve Clinch, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, said: “Toolbox talks can be a particularly useful way of ensuring a common understanding of how even the most basic tasks are to be carried out.
“If you don’t already conduct toolbox talks on your vessel, give it a go! You will be surprised at how effective these are at improving risk awareness and encouraging better, safer ways of working.”
The report highlighted the case where a ship was required to relocate to a nearby berth to allow another vessel to come alongside to load cargo. The Master had a discussion with the Bosun, and it was decided that they only required two crew forward and two aft tending the mooring lines. A further two crew would move the ship’s boat that was moored alongside the ship, and then act as linesmen on the quay.
After retrieving the gangway, the forward and aft mooring stations were manned. The Bosun, who was in charge at the forward mooring station, was wearing a safety helmet with an integral VHF radio. This was to ensure that he could communicate clearly with the Master, who was on the bridge, as it could be noisy at the forward mooring station when the bow thruster was running. The order was given to let go, and the two forward mooring lines were then slackened to allow them to be released from the quay. The two crew ashore lifted the mooring lines off the bollards and dropped them into the water.
The Bosun and the crewman at the forward mooring station then each manually hauled a mooring line. As the Bosun pulled his mooring line, he suddenly lost his footing and fell onto his back, his head catching a raised hatch cover behind him. The crewman told the Bosun to lie still, and radioed the Master, who summoned medical assistance. The ship was made fast and the Bosun was then taken to a local hospital, where it was determined that he had dislocated his left shoulder. His safety helmet was instrumental in preventing a serious head injury.
Mr. Clinch pointed out:
1: No toolbox talk was conducted prior to the operation. All too often, tasks that are regarded as simple or routine are carried out without fully planning and briefing those involved. Stopping for a few minutes, and considering the risks and any safety measures required, will pay dividends in the long run;
2: It should have been recognized that there were insufficient crew to complete the task safely. Mooring operations were normally conducted with three crew at each mooring station, one of whom would be the responsible officer in charge. The bosun was the responsible person in this case, but he could not keep an adequate overview of the operation while manually recovering a mooring line;
3: The mooring line being heaved in by the Bosun was new and heavier than the ship’s other mooring ropes. It also did not float, thereby increasing its drag after it had been dropped into the water. These factors should have led to a decision to use the drum end of the windlass to haul the rope, rather than relying on manual handling;
4: The deck at the forward mooring station had just been repainted, but its non-slip properties were insufficient when the deck was wet. The ratio of aggregate to paint needed to be higher in this case to ensure a coarse finish, and so increase grip for those working on deck.