Skip to content

Near miss: winch wire snagged and released suddenly

What happened?

During drilling operations on a land-based drilling rig, the thimble within the hard eye of the winch wire momentarily caught (snagged) on the edge of the drill rig chassis.  It then released in an uncontrolled manner very close to the driller.  The incident occurred when the driller found it necessary to raise the drill mast, resulting in the winch wire being pulled upwards.  As the winch wire was pulled up, the thimble caught on the edge of the drill rig chassis.  The driller failed to notice that the winch wire had become snagged and continued to raise the mast, thus continuing to increase the tension in the wire until the steel thimble bent, causing the wire and attached hoist plug to release in an uncontrolled manner.

The sudden and uncontrolled release of the winch wire and the attached hoist plug had the potential to cause significant personal injuries had it struck a member of the drill crew.

What were the causes?

  • Failure to identify and recognise snagging hazard;
  • Incipient complacency in what was seen as a ‘routine’ task.

What lessons were learned?

  • Investigate engineering/practical solution: retract the winch wire to a safe position when not in use; where this is not possible, lower the winch wire to a safe location away from all structures and other potential snagging hazards. Keep contained within a trip tray or bucket to prevent a tripping hazard;
  • Highlight the importance of managing all lifting operations, including winch operations and awareness of complacency creeping into routine tasks;
  • Review procedures and task risk assessments to ensure that the potential for lifting equipment (winch wires) becoming snagged is appropriately considered and mitigated. All control measures should be included;
  • Careful check of potential snagging hazards before operation of the winch or the lowering/raising of the drill mast.

Members may wish to refer to:

Safety Event

Published: 20 March 2019
Download: IMCA SF 05/19

Relevant life-saving rules:
IMCA Safety Flashes
Submit a Report

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.