Blog Post #1100 – Cardiac Event Causes Fatality

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

Fitness for duty was a key factor in the death of a vessel captain on March 17, 2018, according to a recent investigation report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

The bulk carrier Sage Amazon was anchored three nautical miles from Port-Daniel-Gascons, Quebec, when the Master experience a cardiac event while he was standing on a cargo-hold access ladder, states the report, which was published on August 6, 2019. Master fell onto the main deck, resulting in severe head injuries. Although cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other medical aid was available on the carrier, the worker succumbed to the injuries.

The TSB investigated the incident and found that the application of first aid had initially been concentrated on the head injuries. “When the possibility of a cardiac event was raised,” the TSB states in a press release about the report, “with no automated external defibrillator (AED) on-board the vessel, was not possible to confirm the Master’s cardiac condition.” In addition, it was about three hours before first responders reached the carrier, by which time the man had already died.

The investigation also deemed that the master had likely not been fit for duty. The Master’s medical records revealed a previous cardiac event and various other medical conditions, which should’ve restricted his capacity for work at sea, but these conditions were not disclosed during the workers last marine medical examination two years ago.

“Previous TSB investigations have identified that seafarers may not disclose medical conditions out of concern that they will lose their employment,” the TSB states. “Therefore, if medical practitioners do not have access to full medical information and records, fitness for duty may not be assessed accurately, increasing the risks of seafarers endangering themselves, the vessel, the crew and the environment in a medical emergency.”

The report also notes that AEDs are not part of standard medical equipment according to current international standards. The TSB recommends vessels to carry AEDs to be better prepared to respond to certain medical emergencies.

“Modern AEDs are compact, reliable and easy-to-use and relatively inexpensive,” the TSB release reads. “If vessel crews do not have access to medical equipment such as an AED… There is a risk that shipboard personnel will not receive adequate medical treatment.”

My opinion

I wonder if they’re going to change the standards and allow employers to be fully updated with information on the medical conditions of all their employees, especially when a debilitating event takes place.

Insurance companies can drive that type of change knowing that the damage to marine vessels can be severe and the lives of the crew can be placed at risk without knowing the current fitness-to-work of any of their workers.

It is the same type of information about drivers on the highway. The insurance companies are entitled to the information if a person becomes a possible danger to themselves or others on the highway due to a medical condition or event that would compromise safety behind the wheel.

This is also based on federal law instead of provincial law and we all know that the safety laws at the federal level are not to the same standards as the provincial ones are.

Let us hope that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada can improve the situation by forcing changes to the legislation.

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 

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.



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