Lesson Learned: Cargo Hold Incident Highlights Risks Of Improper Tool Use


  • During routine cargo vessel operations, a crew member’s use of a sledgehammer to release wedges securing hatch covers led to a dangerous mishap.
  • The hammer shattered upon impact, causing debris to injure the crew member’s leg, resulting in a three-day work hiatus.

On a typical day characterized by clear skies and calm seas, the crew of a cargo vessel commenced their routine tasks, including the opening of cargo hold hatch covers. These covers were sealed shut by several wedges, necessitating their release for access.

Incident Description

Engaged in their normal operations, a crew member approached one of the wedges with a sledgehammer, aiming to dislodge it swiftly. Without sufficient preparation or caution, the crew member swung the hammer with force towards the wedge.


Upon impact, instead of dislodging the wedge, the sledgehammer shattered into pieces, sending sharp debris flying in all directions. Unfortunately, a fragment of the broken hammer penetrated the crew member’s right leg, just below the knee, causing injury.

Response and Recovery

Prompt first aid was administered to the injured crew member, who subsequently required three days off work to recover from the incident.

Lessons Learned:

1. Proper Tool Handling

The incident underscores the critical importance of adhering to safe tool handling practices at all times. Crew members should receive adequate training on the correct usage of tools and equipment, including sledgehammers, to prevent accidents.

2. Precautionary Measures

Before engaging in any task involving tools, individuals must take appropriate precautions, such as wearing protective gear and assessing the surroundings for potential hazards. Rushing through tasks without proper preparation significantly increases the risk of accidents.

3. Regular Safety Training

Regular safety training sessions should be conducted onboard vessels to reinforce safe practices and raise awareness about potential risks associated with specific tasks. Crew members should be encouraged to report any safety concerns promptly to prevent accidents and injuries.

By prioritizing safety protocols and fostering a culture of vigilance and accountability, maritime operations can mitigate the occurrence of accidents and ensure the well-being of crew members onboard.

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Source: MAIB