A tugboat was in port for repairs. The company’s port engineer boarded the vessel to check on the ongoing repairs and in particular the status of the steering equipment maintenance. On his way aft he passed the main breaker panel and noticed the steering pump breakers on the main electrical panel were still energised and there was no lock-out/ tag-out (LOTO) in place. As he continued to the steering compartment he looked to see if the rudder motor controllers were in the off position. The controllers were in the off position, but with only one LOTO tag affixed to one controller.
Upon entering the steering compartment the port engineer directed the crew working there to affix the proper LOTO devices to the main breakers.
When questioned about the inadequate LOTO tags, the crew member in charge stated he was distracted and overwhelmed by the shore gang’s presence on board and the number of jobs to be completed.
The company investigation also found that although there was a general procedure for LOTO, there was no specific checklist for each piece of machinery.
- There are no excuses for inadequate LOTO practices. This should be the first thing you do before any job that involves machinery with stored or potential energy release. Go through the proper LOTO procedure no matter what the apparent time constraints imposed.
- Good communication and coordination are needed between shore gangs and vessel crew to avoid unnecessary mix-ups and missteps in procedures.
- In your LOTO procedure, each piece of machinery should have a list of the breakers that must be opened and locked-out prior to work being permitted on that machinery.
- A ‘permit to work’ programme is a helpful tool to manage work processes and ensure compliance, especially when various parties such as shore gangs are working aboard.