Leg Trapped in Lifting Sling Propelled Me Into the Air: Case Study

It is incredible to think that a person could be lifted into the air by crane rigging, swung upside down for a few minutes before colliding with a metal container. Well, this is exactly what happened to a member of a ships deck crew. Unfortunately, he suffered permanent brain damage, loss of sight in one eye, and is limited to the type of work that he can now do.

This incident involved a routine lifting operation on the deck of a ship in the North Sea, about 140 miles north-east of the Scottish coast. The load, a metal storage container measuring 10metres in length, was being moved from the deck of a supply vessel onto an oil installation. The crane from the oil installation was being used to lift the container.

Preparing to Lift

The ship’s deck supervisor reviewed the lifting plans before the work started and he briefed the crew, which consisted of the following people: crane driver; banksman (to control the lift); and a deck operator (the injured person). Tag lines were attached to the load, which were used by the crew to guide the load as it swings into the air.

The member of the crew who sustained injuries was standing near to the container, but out of sight of the crane driver and out of sight of the deck supervisor. Assuming that all was clear, the deck supervisor instructed the lift to proceed. The banksman, who plays an extremely important role in lifting operations, had also assumed that the crew member was positioned out of the way of the lift, although he didn’t confirm this before proceeding.

Disaster Strikes

As the crane driver started to lift the load the crew member, who had been standing near to the container, didn’t notice some rope lying at his feet. The rope was actually attached to the crane’s lifting lines and when the load was lifted into the air, the rope whipped around the persons right foot and pulled him off balance. He shouted for help, but neither of the other crew members heard his call. As the container was lifted off the deck, the rope around his foot got tighter and he was pulled, upside down, into the air.

The momentum of the movement caused the crew member to be swung around in the air. His head collided with a nearby metal container – it was the noise from the impact that alerted the other crew members. Immediately the load was lowered to the deck and the person untangled from the rigging.

Life Changing Injuries

Although the injured person was quickly mobilised to shore via a helicopter, his injuries were severe. He suffered from a severed optic nerve, a fractured skull, fractured vertebrae and serious bruising. Unfortunately, his injuries were disabling with permanent brain damage and loss of sight.

What Lessons Can be Learnt From This Incident?

In this case there were two major lessons to be learned. Firstly, communication is essential when carrying out hazardous operations. Although a briefing session was held, the hazards were not communicated properly. Secondly, it is extremely important for supervisors to know exactly where their crew members are position when carrying out heavy lifts. Neither the supervisor nor the banskman could confirm the positions the deck crew.

Knowing exactly who is doing what, and where, is essential for preventing accidents and injury. It is not just lifting operations where this is important. In fact, when working with any hazardous materials, equipment or processes, it is vitally important that supervisors know where their people are working. By taking this simple precaution, lives can be saved, injuries prevented and work completed safety.

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