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A recent incident in the UK highlights how easy it is to focus on the activity and not the securing of that load during the activity to be manoeuvred by the crane. A ship repair worker was crushed to death when an anchor weighing almost 3 tonnes toppled onto him in a dry dock. The deceased was one of 3 men working for ship repair & conversion company on a sand dredger in the dry dock when the incident happened in February 2009. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted their employer for serious criminal safety failings.

The court heard how the deceased & his colleagues were laying out or “ranging” anchors on the dredger to ready for inspection. Despite several attempts, they were unable to get the starboard anchor to lie flat on the bottom of the dock, so left it in an upright position for almost 30 mins while they worked on the chains. When the deceased later attempted to pass a chain sling under the anchor in order to manoeuvre it into a flat position, the anchor fell towards the vessel and landed on top of him. He died as a result of multiple crush injuries.

The HSE investigation found that while he was trained to operate a dockside portal crane, he had no formal qualifications in lifting & slinging of loads. It was also unclear how many times he had undertaken the ranging of anchors & chains before the incident. The company did not have an effective management system in place to inform supervisors & others of employees’ competence. In addition, the employer had not carried out or recorded an assessment of the risks associated with & there was no safe system of work in place for this task. The court was told that following the incident an improvement notice was served for the implementation of a safe system of work for the task, as well as a system for assessing the competence of those required to carry out the task. The employer was fined £75,000 (A$ 127 K) and ordered to pay £23,500 (A$40 K) in costs after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to a criminal safety offence. No much of a fine for a life and very foreseeable risks? How many tasks do your personnel perform where there is a high risk of a fatality? Do you manage that risk effectively?

Article by: Julie Armour –

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