The Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation and Maritime (CHIRP) encourages seafarers to maximize the number of reports of incidents and near misses, thereby encouraging the sharing of lessons to be learnt and improving safety culture across the maritime world. Their bulletins comprise mainly reports from the commercial industry, but are often equally relevant to the superyacht sector. The latest bulletin looks at the disregard of basic safety standards on board a vehicle carrier observed from a tug nearby.

The reporter’s tug told CHIRP that they observed one of the crewmembers of the vessel stand on the bulwark cap and reach overboard to change a lamp in the stern light, which was above and inboard of where the crewmember was standing. “There was no life jacket or safety harness worn,” they report. “Another crewmember held the ankle of the crewmember who was reaching out to the stern light. A slip or fall could have easily occurred resulting in certain injury.”

Lessons to be learnt…

“There is evidence here of a lax safety culture and standards,” says CHIRP. “The ship was about to sail; it is likely that a pre-sailing navigation light check showed a malfunctioning stern light and time was running short. A crewman was probably sent ‘at the rush’. Was there time for proper consideration of the risk; was this sort of work within the ship’s ‘permission to work’ framework?”

CHIRP concludes that the ‘Working at Height’ procedures were certainly ignored. “Did the bridge know exactly when the man was over the side, and when back inboard?” CHIRP asks. “Good culture and alertness were shown in the tug whose crew took the trouble to report this case.” 

"If corners are regularly cut, crews stop noticing, and an ‘it won’t happen to me’ culture creeps in."

CHIRP suggests…

“Don’t be rushed into dangerous practices,” the bulletin advises. “Most of us have ‘been there’: there’s an unexpected problem, a tide or an ETA to make, a repair to be done quickly. These are the moments when corners are often cut; when it’s vital to pause, think, and ensure the right precautions are being taken.

“Maintain safety standards routinely – if this doesn’t happen, procedures are much more likely to be rushed or ignored when the unexpected comes up. If corners are regularly cut, crews stop noticing, and an ‘it won’t happen to me’ culture creeps in. When the accident happens, it’s too late to reconsider.” 

The full CHIRP bulletin can be read here