Risk Moment : Shipyards and the Perfect Storm of Risk

Shipyards are a time for getting the maintenance done – and frequently, it is maintenance that can’t be done under normal operating conditions or that which requires specialized skills/equipment.  This month, The Swedish Club looks at a shipyard evolution in their Monthly Safety Scenario.  While fictitious and designed to get shipboard operators thinking, this scenario, like their others, is entirely plausible.

Working at a height or lifting large objects are common procedures onboard almost any vessel.  Seafarers are used to the evolution and familiar with the procedures and equipment used.  Whether it is maintenance on cargo gear, work in a cargo hold or simply changing a lightbulb at a masthead, many jobs at height have been done before and all are satisfied that the risks have been identified and mitigated.  Likewise, with lifting operations, there are many lifts such as hatch covers, grabs and deck machinery that weight tens of tons and are done safely over and over.  Again, the risks involved have been identified and controls put in place to mitigate them.

The perfect storm of risk sometimes gathers during shipyard periods.  Relatively common procedures – working at a height and critical lifts – are combined in an unusual circumstance and quite possibly under time pressure.  Looking at The Swedish Club’s Injury – While Climbing, it can be seen that this perfect storm is made complete with the assistance of an eager, yet inexperienced cadet.  Like so many incidents in the maritime world, the root causes, preventive measures and corrective actions in this scenario are numerous.  Ranging from a comprehensive risk assessment to a toolbox talk to assembling the job team, the methods of preventing the injury and losses detailed come from many directions.

Read through this scenario, answer the questions at the end and play, “What if….?” with yourself.  Because, at the next yard period, this might not be just a hypothetical situation for you.

Let’s be safe out there.

Additional Reading and Links

The Swedish Club – Monthly Safety Scenario – December 2014 – “Injury – While Climbing”

The Gard – The Dangers of Working at Heights Below Decks

ILO – Accident Prevention Onboard Ship and In Port

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