Probe: Bosun died in fall from crane that he shouldn’t have used

A bulk carrier crewman working aloft using a cargo crane fell to his death at a St. Lawrence River anchorage when the crane block made contact with the underside of the boom head and the winch continued to pull, breaking the hoisting cable.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said the gear was improper for the job and the crane was unsuitable for lifting personnel.

The accident happened aboard Federal Yoshino on May 8, 2013, off Baie-Comeau, Quebec. The 624-foot dry bulk carrier was waiting at anchor near Baie-Comeau for a cargo of grain to arrive while the crew attended to general maintenance on board the vessel.

Included in the maintenance was a scheduled monthly inspection of the port provision crane including testing of limit switches and unrolling of both the hoisting and boom cables from their respective drums to check for broken strands and corrosion. The cables were then greased and reeled back onto the drums.

On May 6 and 7, the days before the fatality, a fitter attached a steel supply basket to the port provision crane, got into the basket, and used the crane’s remote control to maneuver the basket to repair a corroded area on the ship’s port engine room vent, the TSB said in a recent investigative report.

On May 8, the bosun agreed with the chief officer that he would use the crane and basket to paint the repaired port engine room vent.

Just before 1500, using the remote control, the bosun began maneuvering the steel basket from the port vent inboard, in order to bring the basket down on the starboard side of C deck, the TSB report said. At the same time, the third officer was performing a security check of the safety equipment on the starboard side of C deck when he noticed liquid spilling onto the deck coming from the steel basket. The third officer called to the bosun that paint was leaking onto the deck, and the bosun acknowledged this with a reply.

“The third officer walked towards the spot where the paint had spilled, at which point a snap was heard,” the investigators wrote. “The third officer looked up and then stepped back at the same moment the basket containing the bosun fell approximately five meters. It landed on a railing forward of the funnel on C deck, directly in front of the third officer. The crane block assembly and the slings that had been attaching the basket to the crane landed inside the basket. Immediately following the accident, the crewmembers removed the bosun from the basket and administered first aid.”

Federal Yoshino called Marine Communication and Traffic Services for medical help at approximately 1503 and the tug Pointe Comeau transported paramedics to the vessel. Shortly after 1600, the bosun arrived at the hospital and was pronounced dead.

“At the time of occurrence, the bosun was working alone using a crane that was not suitable for lifting personnel,” the report said. “While the bosun was maneuvering the crane, the crane block exceeded its set limit, but the limit switch was not activated and the electric motor kept operating. From inside the basket, the bosun’s view of the crane block was obstructed, limiting his ability to identify that it had exceeded its set limit.

“The crane block made contact with the underside of the boom head and the winch continued to pull, over-stressing the hoisting cable and bringing it in contact with the separator plate. The combination of overstress and contact with the separator plate caused the cable to part, releasing the basket in a five-meter free-fall.”

In the analysis of the incident, the TSB found that the limit switch did not activate as intended to cut power to the electric motor.

“It is likely that the limit switch was not activated because the hoisting cable was not fitted through the hole in the lifting rod’s end plate. In this situation, the unsecured lifting rod would have been pushed aside by the crane block, rather than up, and the limit switch would not have been activated,” the report stated.

The TSB found that incorrect rigging of the hoisting cable with the lifting rod was suggested by the lack of grease on the lifting rod’s end plate and by the extent of grease on the rod itself.

“The hoisting cable in this occurrence had been freshly greased five days prior,” the report stated. “In a situation where the freshly greased hoisting cable passed through the hole in the end plate, the transfer of grease from the hoisting cable to the end plate would be expected; however, minimal grease was present on the end plate. Furthermore, the rod itself had a significant amount of grease on it, suggesting that it had likely dangled freely alongside the hoisting cable and had rubbed against it.”

The TSB noted that during the routine maintenance on May 3, it is possible that the hoisting cable was removed from the lifting rod’s end plate to facilitate greasing of the cable and was not fitted back through the end plate after the maintenance had been completed.

The TSB determined that “if equipment that is not suitable for working aloft is used for this purpose, the risk of injury or death to crewmembers is increased,” and “if procedures in place to protect the safety of crew are not enforced, the risk of injury or death to crewmembers is increased.”

Following the occurrence, owner Fednav Ltd. immediately instructed manager Intership Navigation Co. to stop the use of the provision cranes for lifting personnel. Fednav indicated that safe working practices will be a main focus for future inspections of vessels under their ownership.

On the day after the accident, Intership issued a safety bulletin to its vessels strictly forbidding the use of the basket with the crane for human transport.

By Professional Mariner Staff