Lost Time Injury (LTI): Fall on Staircase

What happened?

A crewman on a vessel lost his balance going down some stairs and fell, resulting in a fractured ankle.  His foot got caught in a gap as he landed at the bottom of the stairs.  He suffered 3 broken bones and his foot was dislocated.  He was evacuated by helicopter to hospital, where surgery was performed a number of days after the event.

What went wrong?

  • The injured person lost footing when descending staircase:
    • he was not rushing, and it was stated he was not showing any signs of pressure or stress prior to the event
    • there was no significant vessel movement (wave height 2mHs, wind NE 25knots)
    • person stated he was holding the handrail;
  • His safety shoes were in a poor condition and did not meet company standard (ankle height).

What were the causes?

  • Immediate causes:
    • person lost footing and fell forward
    • complacency/lack of situational awareness
    • potentially poor standard of footwear, however soles of shoes were not excessively worn;
  • Underlying causes:
    • potential for tiredness/fatigue – the incident occurred on a nightshift
    • failure to identify that the gap at the bottom of the staircase may present a hazard. Although it should be noted that the stairs were classified in accordance with local regulatory standards.

What lessons were learned?

  • Worn out personal protective equipment (PPE) should be checked regularly and replaced when required;
  • Never rush on stairways and always keep one hand firmly on the handrail, utilising the trailing hand technique where possible.

What actions were taken?

  • Additional warning signage was placed at top of the staircase;
  • Review of instructions/expectations regarding company standard of safety footwear;
  • Improvement modification was added to staircase in order to prevent a person’s foot from becoming caught between the single protruding step and the staircase.