6th September 2023

Potentially fatal near miss

Initial Report

Our reporter told CHIRP that their 27m beam trawler was alongside, port side too, in the harbour for maintenance. They hoisted the port (inboard) trawl so that they could stand on the quayside and fix the nets. Just before they started work, the steel wire rope (SWR) parted, and the beam, stone mat and net fell at great speed over the side between the vessel and the quay, only narrowly missing several of the crew. A new rope was reeved, and, with the help of a diver, the gear was safely recovered.

In subsequent correspondence, the reporter stated that the ropes were regularly greased and checked for signs of wear. Ropes were also ordinarily end-for-ended approximately halfway through their estimated service life to further reduce the effects of wear on any one part of a rope. There was no indication that the rope had been overloaded or worn.

CHIRP Comment

This near miss highlights the potential risks that can arise during maintenance and hoisting operations: even when good inspection and upkeep routines are in place, equipment can fail, and incidents can happen. Proper equipment inspection is crucial to identify worn parts early to minimise the risks of unexpected failures. Signs of wear include dark or rusty parts of the rope, breaking strands (‘hairy rope’), or the rope’s diameter narrowing. Keep the crew clear while the equipment is hoisted or lowered to minimise crushing, entrapment, or wire ‘snap-back’ risks.

Use the required PPE during hoisting operations, like safety helmets. When lifting, avoid the sudden onset or release of tension: either can cause high shock dynamic loading, causing rope failure. Be aware of the maximum load that is allowed for the hoisting equipment in use

Key Issues relating to this report

Communication – Use clear and effective communication during the toolbox talk to highlight the hazards so that everyone involved knows the maintenance procedures and understands the potential risks. Do you have an emergency response plan to react to accidents or incidents?

Situational awareness – Crews should be encouraged to continually think “What if…?’ and be alert to what is happening around them. Use the right PPE.

Teamwork – Working together and challenging the status quo during maintenance routines, especially ones not carried out frequently, is good practical safety management.

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