Case Study: Painting Proves To Be Fatal Even For Experienced Crew Member

An experienced deck crew member was tasked with painting the end of a raised car-deck ramp hatch while a ro-ro was at the dock. He was attending to this work alone when several other crew heard a loud crash in the vicinity of the ramp.

The other crew found the victim lying on the inboard side of the ramp, some 4.5m below the main deck, with a trestle lying on its side and across the lower part of his right leg. The victim was attended to.

He was conscious, but it was quickly assessed that he had broken a leg and an arm, and the shore emergency services were called. The crew member was taken to hospital but died three days later. It was reported that he had suffered a stroke caused by traumatic brain injury.

Fatal fall from 4.5m
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The official investigation found, among other things, that:

  • The victim crossed a safety barrier and fell 4.5m from the main deck on to the ramp.
  • The victim’s task did not require access to the unprotected deck edge beyond the rope barrier. It is not known why he entered the hazardous area.
  • Work practices adopted by other deck ratings during hatch cover maintenance two days earlier indicated that adherence to the vessel’s safety procedures was more a matter of routine and compliance than of understanding and conviction.

Lessons learned

  • Experience does not give one a free pass to short-circuit safety procedures.


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