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Unsafe work practices

By Martin Dolan, Chief CommissionerMartin Dolan

Last week, we released an investigation report into a fatal accident involving a seaman who was knocked off a ladder by a wave while working over the side of a container ship. 

The seaman had the appropriate safety kit, including harness and rope, and the crew had successfully performed this type of task more than 30 times over the previous two months.

Unfortunately the crew had not done a proper risk assessment for this job. Nor did they take into account the poor weather conditions at the time. The ship’s safety management system was not effectively implemented and documented procedures were not followed.

Worryingly, we have discovered that complacency has been the direct cause of injury and death.

In short, this accident was a textbook case of failing to properly identify the risks before starting a task and not following standard safety procedures. 

Tragically, this type of accident is not an isolated event. Over the past few years, the ATSB has investigated several maritime accidents that have involved unsafe working practices resulting in serious injury or death. Falls from height, crushing and exploding equipment are happening all too frequently in the maritime industry—so much so, that we think the industry needs to give heightened attention to unsafe work practices.

As we stress through the Safety Watch initiative, maritime work practices is one of the ATSB’s top nine safety priorities. In fact, our investigation findings reveal a common problem of crews not properly identifying risks and risk strategies not being implemented. Worryingly, we have discovered that complacency has been the direct cause of injury and death. 

The lessons we’ve learnt from these accidents aren’t just limited to the maritime industry. They apply to all operations that deal with risk. I encourage anyone who manages risk to check out our Safety Watch page. The page provides important safety messages we’ve discovered from our investigations along with links to our investigation reports into accidents and incidents.

Written by Martin Dolan, Chief Commissioner at 10:26 AM


Noel Haynes said...

I have been in situations where risk assessments have been done and safety has fallen down because risk assessments have not properly included all of the risks that were really present.
Too often a checklist for risks is available and people have just ticked off the list and then gone ahead to carry out the task. EG work in confined spaces. All the safety equipment is available. Tick, tick, tick. Whoops the person was not trained and qualified to work in confined spaces.

All of the people are on track to provide the protection for people carrying out the work. Whoops one gets distracted from his duties as a lookout and does not see the train coming.

Unless everything is checked and re-checked, things go wrong.

February 13, 2013 20:44
Luxury Builders Melbourne said...

It is paramount for all managers and bosses to ensure all of their employees strictly follow all risk assessments and follow safety procedures. If there is evidence of this not being the case these people need to be held accountable.

February 28, 2013 16:19