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Lost time injury – person slipped on the stairs and broke his arm

What happened?

A member of the engine room team suffered a serious injury to his left forearm while carrying a pail of lubrication oil from the steering flat to the engine room. He was carrying the pail on his right shoulder with both arms in support, and descending some stairs. With two steps remaining, he stepped on a slippery step and his right foot became trapped between the steps. He lost his balance, slipped and fell. When he landed on the deck his left arm took most of the impact. First aid was applied with using a splint. The injury and swelling of the affected area did not seem to be severe. However, upon arrival in port, he was referred to hospital for further treatment and it was confirmed that his left arm was broken.

Showing re-enactment

What went wrong? What were the causes?

The immediate causes:

  • He was going down the stairs without holding the handrail;
  • The stairs were slippery;
  • His foot got caught.

The weather was calm; the vessel was neither rolling nor pitching. The crewman involved was well rested and was wearing correct personal protective equipment (PPE).

Our member found the root causes to be:

  • Inadequate compliance with correct lifting and carrying technique – there was a right way and a wrong way to transfer this lubrication oil, and he chose the wrong way;
  • Risk seen as tolerable – “complacency” – this was a routine and recurring task.

Lessons learnt/Actions taken

  • Could there be a better or safer way to transfer this oil?
  • All should be more safety conscious when going down the stairs, particularly if carrying things;
  • Handrails should be used; correct lifting and carrying procedures should be followed;
  • Good house-keeping – ensure stairs, floors, safety shoes etc. are kept free of oil and grease.


Please refer to IMCA’s safety promotional materials:

Members may wish to refer to the following incidents:

Safety Event

Published: 15 December 2017
Download: IMCA SF 31/17

Relevant life-saving rules:
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