Weather deck working and incident reporting

31st January 2004

Weather deck working and incident reporting

Initial Report

At around 1600 the Bridge OOW (Officer of the Watch) was informed that myself and a colleague were going to work on the after deck.  I then proceeded to the after deck, whilst my colleague went off to prepare some other equipment.

Whilst awaiting his return the ship came about without warning and a wave engulfed me as I turned to flee.  As I turned, I slipped, but being uninjured continued to the safety of the after weather door.

I reported this incident to the Bridge immediately.  The Master, 1st Mate and 2ndMate were all present on the bridge at this time.  I Informed the Master of the incident to which he replied – “Well if you don’t tell us you’re on the after deck what do you expect?”  I told him that we did inform the bridge, and the 2nd Mate who took the message piped up and admitted to the Master that he had indeed been informed a few minutes ago.

A meeting was held in the Master’s cabin regarding the incident. To my surprise the agenda wasn’t to address my concerns over the near miss but to coerce me into changing my statement.  The Master wanted me to rewrite the report so that the description of the wave that came over me was no more than a spray.  It was also insinuated that I had exaggerated my statement and that my motives for submitting the report were questionable.  The debate was lively and coercive and resulted in me agreeing to look again at the wording of my report.

I didn’t learn until much later that the reason we came about quickly was due to an anti-collision manoeuvre which, had it not taken place, would have placed us within two cables of another vessel.  I also received an explanation when I was on the bridge collecting information for the incident report that I was forgotten about!

Later another near miss report was brought to me already completed with a statement that was not my words or hand, I was asked to sign it. I refused and asked that the original form that I completed and signed be submitted instead.

I would be keen to see Masters and Safety Officers to take heed of best practice in these matters. That is, interfering with witness statements and putting unnecessary pressure on their crew will lead to legal difficulties. A statement is only one persons view of events, the Masters and Safety Officers can submit their own statement as can witnesses or others involved in the process.

On the facts of this report there were failures in procedures and communications with respect to the control of weather deck working.  Resources must be allocated to properly monitor operations where personnel are at risk.  This incident could quite easily have had a different and more tragic outcome.

CHIRP supports open reporting and the reporter here is quite correct to suggest it is important not to try and influence another’s view of an incident.   A report may always be supplemented by additional information.

Another interesting question is why did the ship’s senior personnel feel it was necessary to alter the report?  Does this tell us something about the culture of the organisation they work for and the way it responds to incidents?

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