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Head injury when crew member fell over in bathroom during heavy weather

What happened

A member of the crew fell over in the bathroom of his cabin while the vessel was rolling violently, and suffered a minor head injury as a result. The incident occurred when the vessel was steaming at full speed during moderate weather conditions, and was rolling in consequence. When the vessel rolled suddenly, the person lost balance, tripped and hit his head against a towel rail. Five stitches were required to close the wound.


What was the cause

  • The vessel was transiting at full speed across a heavy swell,  on the instructions of the client. The high speed was causing the vessel to roll up to 17 degrees;
  • The injured person was caught off-balance in a narrow space in the bathroom.

Lessons learned

  • Vessel Master to discuss with client the best and safest options for transit across rough seas or during heavy weather;
  • Officer of the watch to warn vessel crew to remain aware and be more vigilant of sudden vessel movements, particularly on the stairs, in the galley, in bathrooms, on the open deck, in the engine room and anywhere else where there is risk of injury from overbalancing and falling or tripping over.
  • An old saying from the days of sailing ships is: “One hand for yourself, one hand for the ship”.

Members may wish to refer to:

  • Slip/trip resulting in lost time injury (LTI) [chief engineer failed to follow instructions not to go on deck during heavy weather]
  • Crushed finger [A diver in sat got his fingers trapped in a lock when weather conditions winds were between force 7 and 8 and the vessel was pitching and rolling heavily]

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