Crew member dies after fall during ramp hatch maintenance

A vessel’s safety procedures are always at risk of becoming routine, which may cause real hazards to be overlooked. A recent Mars Report serves as an example, in which a crew member fell from 4.5 metres high leading to his death.

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

An experienced deck crew member was tasked with painting the end of a raised car-deck ramp hatch while a ro-ro was at dock. He was attending to this work alone when several other crew heard a loud crash in the vicinity of the ramp. The other crew found the victim lying on the inboard side of the ramp, some 4.5 metres below the main deck, with a trestle lying on its side and across the lower part of his right leg.

The victim was attended to. He was conscious, but it was quickly assessed that he had broken a leg and an arm, and the shore emergency services were called. The crew member was taken to hospital, but died three days later. It was reported that he had suffered a stroke caused by traumatic brain injury.

Investigation findings

The official investigation found, among other things, that:

  • The victim crossed a safety barrier and fell 4.5 metres from the main deck on to the ramp.
  • The victim’s task did not require access to the unprotected deck edge beyond the rope barrier. It is not known why he entered the hazardous area.
  • Work practices adopted by other deck ratings during hatch cover maintenance two days earlier indicated that adherence to the vessel’s safety procedures was more a matter of routine and compliance than of understanding and conviction.

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Experience does not give one a free pass to short-circuit safety procedures.

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202024, 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.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

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