Maintain control ... right to the bitter end
A motor yacht was in a maintenance shed while work was carried out on the anchors and chain locker. On the shed floor, a deckhand stood below the hawse pipe to lay out the chain onto a pallet as it was ‘walked out’ on the windlass by a deckhand under the Bosun’s supervision. The plan was to detach the bitter end and then walk it forward on deck so that a messenger line could be attached. However, as the bitter end was walked forward, a bight was created, and this then fell through the hawse pipe under its weight, narrowly missing the deckhand on the shed floor.
Dry-dock work is fraught with hidden safety risks due to the unfamiliarity of the working environment the crew find themselves in. A toolbox talk given by the officer or crew that has carried out this type of work before to highlight the risks associated with this work should have taken place before the work commenced. A job like this must not be rushed.
Friction and the chain’s weight had probably stopped it from slipping across the forecastle. However, as the end of the chain was walked forward, the chain’s weight (and thus friction) would have reduced sufficiently to allow the chain to surge forward under gravity.
It is not clear if the chain had been removed from the windlass or whether the windlass brake had not been applied. An independent means of controlling the chain, such as a ‘stopper’, would have prevented the chain from surging forward. These are quick and easy to rig and would have secured the chain while the messenger was attached to the bitter end and connected to the drum. As an additional safety precaution, the deckhand on the shed floor should have been directed to stand away from the chain while it was being ranged.
Key Issues relating to this report
Communication: Communicate the risks associated with this work and check that the agreed safety measures are in place. This includes ensuring that no one is standing in the direct line of the anchor cable.
Complacency: Seamanship still applies even in the maintenance shed! A stopper would have reduced the risk of an accident.