Safety Risks In Tugboat Operations: Lessons from A Winch Accident


  • An incident on a pusher tug involved a crew member suffering a wrist fracture due to a still-attached cranking handle spinning uncontrollably when the winch brake was released.
  • Key lessons from the incident include the importance of dynamic risk assessment, effective monitoring through CCTV, and adherence to standard operating procedures to prevent accidents during routine tasks.
  • Regular training and toolbox talks can help reinforce safety measures and promote a proactive safety culture.

The incident involving the crew of the pusher tug highlights significant safety concerns and the need for rigorous adherence to safety procedures during routine operations.

Key Insights

1. Risk Assessment: The crew failed to remove the cranking handle connected to the winch drum, which was a critical oversight. This suggests the need for a dynamic risk assessment before starting any task. The crew must be empowered to identify potential hazards, assess the associated risks, and communicate their concerns to create a proactive safety culture.

2. Monitor Operations: The master was attempting to steer the pusher tug and control the aft deck operations simultaneously, which can be challenging given the limited visibility from the wheelhouse. Implementing closed-circuit television (CCTV) can provide the master with better operational oversight, allowing for quick identification of safety issues and prompt preventative action.

3. Follow Procedures: Failure to adhere to the standard operating procedure (SOP) during routine operations can lead to serious injuries. In this case, the crew did not follow the SOP to remove the cranking handle before releasing the winch brake, resulting in a serious wrist injury to one crew member. Regular toolbox talks are necessary to remind crew members of the correct procedures, their importance, and how to complete tasks safely.

By applying these lessons, the crew and master can improve operational safety and reduce the risk of similar accidents in the future. Regular training, risk assessments, and effective monitoring of operations can contribute to a safer working environment.

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Source: MAIB