Crew member falls into open manhole

An unattended, open manhole can pose a hazard on board ships and should be dealt with as such. The Nautical Institute gives advice on how to prevent such accidents in a recent Mars Report after a crew member fell into one.

The Mars Reports are compiled (anonymously) by The Nautical Institute to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

While at sea, deck crew were sweeping the empty hold of a vessel. The bilge well covers had been left open and were without barriers or guards. One crew member was near the bilges. Concentrating on his sweeping, he forgot that the bilge well covers had been removed. He stepped back and fell into one of the bilges. He was immediately helped out of the bilge well and given a physical evaluation. No apparent injuries were observed, but the next day he complained of mild back pain. On arrival at port, he was sent to the shore doctor for further evaluation and medication.

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • In this case the injuries were not severe, but they might well have been. Always protect unattended open manholes with guards or barriers.
  • Practice on-site risk assessment to identify all potential hazards at the work site and implement the necessary risk reduction measures.
  • Stay aware of your environment – situational awareness is your best friend.

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202020, that are part of Report Number 330. A selection of this Report has also been published in SWZ|Maritime’s May 2020 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.

Picture (top) by Seebeer.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.