A crew member on board the P&O cruise ship, Pacific Sun fell to his death because his safety harness was not properly secured, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report released today.

On 5 February 2006, Pacific Sun berthed at number eight wharf Darling Harbour, Sydney. The quartermaster on the twelve to four watch was assigned to clean rust streaks from the outside of the port bridge wing. At 1205, before the quartermaster started work, the officer on watch checked his safety harness and completed a work permit. The quartermaster then climbed out onto an open catwalk and started to work outside the bridge wing of the ship, 24 m above the concrete wharf.

At about 1249 the quartermaster apparently lost his footing and fell onto the wharf below. He died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the fall.

The ATSB's investigation report states that the quartermaster was probably in the process of moving the safety line on his harness from one strong point to another at the time that he lost his footing and fell. The factors which contributed to his fall include a safety harness that was fitted with only one lanyard and workplace risk assessment and procedures that were inadequate. The quartermaster may also have been distracted from the task at the time by non-work related issues.

The ATSB report recommends that ship operators should ensure that the procedures, permits and risk assessments for personnel working aloft adequately identify the hazards and stipulate measures to mitigate the risks. The report also recommends that ship operators should ensure that the safety harness and lanyard used by personnel working aloft are appropriate for the purpose considering all aspects of the tasks to be performed.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSB website, or obtained from the ATSB by telephoning 1800 020 616.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
Last update 01 April 2011