While at sea, deck crew were sweeping the empty hold of a vessel. The bilge well covers had been left open and were without barriers or guards. One crew member was near the bilges. Concentrating on his sweeping, he forgot that the bilge well covers had been removed. He stepped back and fell into one of the bilges.
He was immediately helped out of the bilge well and given a physical evaluation. No apparent injuries were observed but the next day he complained of mild back pain. On arrival at port, he was sent to the shore doctor for further evaluation and medication.
Although the major contributing factor to this accident appears to be alcohol abuse by the Master, several other factors conspired to allow the mishap. Had proper BRM been applied, the single point failure of the Master may have been avoided.
- In this case, the injuries were not severe but they might well have been. Always protect unattended open manholes with guards or barriers.
- Practise on-site risk assessment to identify all potential hazards at the work site and implement the necessary risk reduction measures.
- Stay aware of your environment – situational awareness is your best friend.