Fall hazards associated with temporary deck openings

A member has provided a note on one of the outcomes of a joint US Coast Guard (USCG)/Minerals Management Service (MMS) review of accidents on fixed offshore facilities resulting in fatalities and/or serious injuries.

It was observed that a number of incidents occurred during operations in which grating or other deck covering had been temporarily removed. Some cases involved personnel working at temporary deck openings who became entangled in equipment, tripped or simply forgot that the openings were there. Other events involved personnel who were not aware of temporary deck openings and who were passing through work areas when the accidents occurred.

USCG regulations require that deck openings not in use be covered, guarded or otherwise made inaccessible. Further, in cases where there is a hazard of falling ten or more feet when engaged in an activity, such as during and after removal of decking, personnel are required to wear secured safety belts. MMS regulations require that lease operations do not result in injury or loss of life and that operators perform work in a safe and workmanlike manner.

The reporting company has given the following instruction to its personnel:

In order to reduce fall hazards associated with temporary deck openings, employees shall wear secured safety belts when:

  • removing gratings or other deck coverings to create a temporary deck opening;
  • working within the perimeter of the guard rails; or
  • near the temporary opening when a portion of a temporary guard rail is removed.

Employees may work outside an opening without safety belts if temporary guard rails are installed that completely encompass, and are in close proximity to, the deck opening. These temporary guard rails should be of a contrasting colour to the immediate environment and should be substantially constructed to prevent an accidental fall through the opening by an employee.

Routine safety meetings and notices regarding work hazards should continue to highlight the dangers associated with temporary deck openings.

Further details on the review are available from Mr David M Moore of the MMS (telephone +1 703 787 1637) or LCDR Eric Walters of the USCG (telephone +1 202 267 0499 or e-mail ewalters@comdt.uscg.mil).