High potential near miss: slip on tag line during crane operations

What happened?

The Marine Safety Forum (MSF) reports an incident in which a crewman slipped and fell during lifting operations.  The incident occurred when a vessel was preparing for cargo transfer to an offshore installation.  Two crew were on deck ready to hook a load onto the installation crane.  A tag line was attached to the load.  As the load was hooked on, one of the seamen was seen to fall to the deck.  Crane movement was stopped; the seaman got back on his feet and was uninjured.

The MSF notes that this near miss had a high potential for serious injury:

  • The crane could have lifted the load and it could have collided with the seaman when he had fallen;
  • The crane could have lifted the load and the tag line could have tightened around the seaman’s leg lifting him off the deck.

What went wrong?  What were the causes?

After hooking on, the seaman had hold of the middle part of the tag line, and took a step back.  He stood on the tag line, tripped and fell.

The MSF notes that industry guidelines (Guidelines for Offshore Marine Operations (GOMO)) state that the use of tag lines should generally be avoided.  However, it is recognised that certain conditions may require the use of them – this operation required the use of a tag line due to the relatively very light and fragile nature of the item being transferred.

The guidelines go on to state:

  • All sections of the line, including slack must be kept in front of the body, between the handler and the load;
  • Where two or more persons are handling the same line, ALL must work on the same side of the line. Any slack must be kept in front of the group.

The MSF alert continues: “It is recognised that utilising tag lines with standard cargo units inherently puts distance between the handlers and tag line due to the dimensions involved. In this case, with a small box to be transferred, the tag line was far closer to the handlers and required further care and preparations to avoid conflict.”

What lessons were learnt?  What actions were taken?

  • The MSF notes that additional pre-planning should have been conducted:
    • identify which side of the loads the cargo handlers were to work from and the direction in which they will move away
    • run the tag line at the opposite side of the load and in the other direction;
  • The risk assessment for deck cargo operations was reviewed particularly with respect to the use of tag lines. The crew were formally briefed (and a recork kept thereof) on the contents of the reviewed risk assessment;
  • Additional training in the use of tag lines, particularly when dealing with small or fragile loads, was carried out;
  • Future operations would be more closely monitored from the Bridge.

Members may wish to refer to the following guidelines: