On 23 June 2016, Scott Rennie, a deckhand on the scallop dredger King Challenger (Figure 1), fell overboard from a scallop tipping door. He was not wearing a lifejacket. The vessel was 12 nautical miles south-west of Scalloway, Shetland Islands and the sea temperature was 10.5ºC.
Scott was recovered back on board in less than 10 minutes. He was unconscious and showed no signs of life. The crew were unable to resuscitate him and, despite quick evacuation by air to a nearby hospital, he did not survive.
Following the accident, the owners of King Challenger prohibited their crews from climbing onto tipping doors without the use of a harness and lifeline. The owners have been recommended to review the risk assessments for all their vessels, paying particular attention to the risks associated with maintenance tasks.
During the course of the investigation, the MAIB identified that:
- The crew regularly worked on open tipping doors without securing themselves with a lifeline or wearing a lifejacket.
- Scott, a strong swimmer, was incapacitated within 4 minutes of falling into the cold water.
- The crew were unprepared for the rescue of an unconscious casualty from the water.
- Published a safety flyer to disseminate the key lessons of this accident within the fishing industry.
- Prohibited the crew on its vessels from climbing on the tipping door without the use of a harness and lifeline.
- Instructed all its skippers to conduct manoverboard drills on a monthly basis.
- Purchased specialist equipment and implemented fleet-wide procedures for the recovery of an unconscious casualty from the water.
- Scott Rennie slipped and fell overboard from the tipping door while following the accepted procedure on board for repairing dredge bags.
- The vessel’s risk assessment should have recognised that the practise of walking on the tipping doors was unsafe and identified safe alternative working practices.
- Scott succumbed to the debilitating effects of cold water incapacitation within approximately 4 minutes of falling into the water.
- Had Scott been wearing a lifejacket when he entered the water, it is likely that he would have been recovered alive.
- Unless appropriate, realistic manoverboard drills are carried out, the crew’s reaction will be ad hoc, not only risking delays in recovering a casualty but potentially resulting in additional casualties
- Review the risk assessment for all the vessels in its fleet, paying particular attention to the risks associated with maintenance tasks.
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