Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Overloading and inclement weather contributed to a fatal tugboat accident in 2013, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) concludes.

On July 22, 2014, the TSB released its report into the capsizing and accidental death aboard the tugboat Western Tugger while towing the barge Arctic Lift 1, 33 nautical miles southwest of Burgeo, Newfoundland. The report identifies minimal clearance above the water (freeboard), poor weather conditions and a non-functional emergency tow release as factors that led to the incident.

On May10, 2013, the Arctic Lift 1 developed a large starboard list or a right-side leaning, while being towed by the Western Tugger. The list may have been the result of many factors: water shipped on deck; down-flooding through hatches that were not adequately sealed; possible damage to the barge en route, resulting in water ingress; or unsecured cargo that had shifted, affecting the barge’s stability.

As the master aboard the Western Tugger wanted to be able to release the barge in case it sank, he “directed a deckhand to the winch room to loosen a secondary brake, which had been added to the winch to assist the main brake,” the report notes. “Moments later, the forward end of the barge rose out of the water and the barge capsized.”

The sudden strain on the secondary brake drum caused it to shatter, projecting shards into the winch room. Other crew members were alerted by the loud noise of the drum shattering and came to the aid of the deckhand to administer first aid. The worker was airlifted to hospital, but died before he arrived.

The TSB investigation identified the following safety issues at play during the tow: an emergency tow release that could not be operated immediately; hatches that were not reliably watertight; cargo that was unsecured; risk assessments and safe work practices that did not identify or mitigate the potential hazard associated with the installation of the nut and bolt assembly on the secondary brake and the requirement that it be manually released in an emergency ; minimal freeboard; and a safety-management system that, although under development, had not been implemented prior to the occurrence.

My opinion

Proper maintenance and a training course in SOPs would have gone a long way in the prevention of this accident. There was no need for this deckhand to die.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – “In Canada, ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.