Unauthorised modification

Unauthorised modification


A report detailing a dangerous modification of an aluminium step ladder.

What the Reporter told us:

During a routine safety inspection of the Steering Gear Room, the Shipboard Safety Officer spotted an unauthorised modification to a portable aluminium ladder. The ladder had been crudely extended by bolting two pieces of wood into the sides of the ladder. Attached to the end of this was a wooden spreader/step. The full distance from the aluminium steps to the wooden spreader/step was nearly an additional one metre.

The pieces of wood had visible evidence of cracks, sharp edges, and two long nails with 2cm protruding from the wood. In addition, the arrangement resulted in the ladder becoming unstable as it was uneven when placed upright on the deck.

The Safety Officer advised that equipment such as portable ladders should never be modified as this is outside their design parameters and would render them unsafe for use. In addition, the manufacturer’s certificate for the safe load of the ladder would become null and void. If this type of modification were noted during a Third Party inspection, such as Port State Control, the inspectors would not be impressed.

CHIRP Comment

The Maritime Advisory Board commented that this is a classic case of not using “the right tool for the right job” and agreed with the comments of the Shipboard Safety Officer. Unauthorised modification could lead to equipment failure and potential injury. From a human element perspective, the person who modified the ladder was clearly not aware of, nor concerned with, the dangers that could arise from this practice. Furthermore, looking at the “Deadly Dozen” reveals the following:

  • Local Practices – Don’t cut corners, and beware of the local “norms” becoming the new standard.
  • Culture – Do you really have a good safety culture – does everyone on board and in shore management really care about safety?
  • Situational Awareness – Ask yourself “What have I missed?”
  • Complacency – When considering any job, follow procedures – they work.

The Code of Safe Working Practices has a lot to say regarding portable ladders. Sections 11.8.4–11.8.5, 17.3, A17.2/3–A17.2/4, 22.2.9, 22.6, 28.6.3 refer.