Lack of Safety Features Caused Severe Head Injury


Two crew members on a general cargo ship were injured when a suspended load fell and struck them. One of them suffered a severe head injury while the other suffered a minor hand injury. 


A 11,000 GT general cargo ship built in 2018, was to load a cargo of wind turbine tower sections. The deck crew, supervised by the chief officer (C/O), began to prepare the ship for cargo loading.

Following the safety briefing, one of the able-bodied seamen (A/B) used the ship’s forward crane to remove the cargo hold ventilation duct space cover, so that the lifting gear could be retrieved. 

Two other A/Bs then entered the ventilation duct space and attached the first of two hatch cover lifting gear sets to the crane’s hook using a fibre sling. Both A/Bs then climbed out of the space and stood close to the hatch edge ready to guide the load and free any snags as it was lifted.

There was no designated storage space for the lifting gear on board. The lifting gear had been stowed on wooden pallets positioned on top of the ventilation duct coamings in the ventilation duct space ever since delivery by the shipbuilder.

Using a radio, the C/O instructed the A/B controlling the crane to commence lifting. After the load had been lifted about 2-3 metres, the gear snagged. The C/O ordered the crane driver to stop hauling and the two A/Bs on deck freed the snag by hand. With the two A/Bs remaining close to the edge of the hatch the C/O ordered the crane driver to start heaving again.

Shortly after the lifting operation recommenced, a shackle at the lower end of the load became snagged on a ventilation trunk coaming. The C/O immediately instructed the crane driver to stop, but at the same time the fibre sling parted and the lifting gear fell to the deck, striking both A/Bs.

One of the A/Bs suffered a severe head injury while the other suffered a minor hand injury. 


  • The deck preparations had been delayed by weather and there was pressure to prepare the ship for the cargo loading.
  • The operation was not stopped by any of the involved crew when the A/Bs positioned themselves close to the suspended load.
  • The ship’s SMS did not contain a risk assessment or a procedure for the stowage and handling of the hatch cover lifting gear, nor any guidance for the conduct of a lifting plan and the identification of fall zones.
  • With no procedure to follow, the crew had adopted their own method of carrying out the lifting operation. The crew had experienced similar snagging events on previous occasions. When these had occurred, the deck crew had manually freed the gear after the crane had stopped hauling. No Near Miss report or corrective actions followed.
  • The ship had not been built with a dedicated storage area for the hatch cover lifting gear. In result, the crew had devised a local storage arrangement which might have appeared appropriate, however had a significant number of potential snagging hazards. 
  • The load fell because the synthetic fibre sling used to lift it parted under tension. Although the sling’s nominal SWL was more than twice the weight of the load being lifted, the sling was in a poor condition and should have been discarded.

Lesson learnt

  • The officer with primary responsibility for cargo operations should check that all safety features are in place and that any possible hazards are clearly marked and otherwise dealt with to prevent injury to any persons who may be working on board the vessel.
  • All seafarers must take particular care to not exceed the safe working load of any equipment.
  • All lifting equipment used on board ship should be of good design, sound construction and material, adequate strength for the purpose for which it is used, free from defect, properly installed or assembled and properly maintained.
  • A register of a ship’s lifting appliances and items of loose gear should be kept on the ship. All lifting gear and loose gear should be included in the register.
  • All equipment should be thoroughly examined by a responsible officer before use and regularly examined during use.
  • Loads being lowered or hoisted should not pass or remain over any person engaged in loading or unloading or performing any other work in the vicinity.

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