National Fisherman

Caught by surprise

From U.S. Coast Guard reports

In February, the deck boss and crew of a catcher-processor began hauling back a last set in the Bering Sea west of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Steady snowfall and poor visibility had delayed the trip, and the crew had been working feverishly to make up for lost time.

Around 11:30 p.m., the deck boss yelled instructions to two deckhands who were climbing on and near the A-frames, securing loose gear and prepping the deck for the next day. One of them needed to pivot a service crane from its seated position to a spot on the port side so the cod end could be hoisted and emptied on deck and into the live holds.

Earlier that day an engineering maintenance crew had used the crane. But when they finished, the engineers, who rarely used the crane, simply tied it off to the forward A-frame's starboard side.

One of the crewmen started climbing up the crane's side. Realizing it wasn't completely secured, he reached the point where the crane was lashed to the A-frame. He steadied himself, stepping onto a crossbar welded to the winch's gear train cover.

As the crewman began to release the crane, the deck boss, preoccupied with hauling the net, remotely activated the winch but hadn't checked to see if the crewman was clear.

The unexpected movement of the crane's winch startled the crewman, causing him to lose his footing on the crossbar. His body was jolted backward as his foot slipped forward off the crossbar and into a bight in the line that had already been reeled onto the winch's spool drum. The deck boss, unaware of the predicament, continued pulling line onto the spool.

Within seconds the line on the drum cinched down on the crewman's foot. He shouted for help. The deck boss reversed the winch while three deckhands worked to free the crewman. He was taken to sickbay, where the captain and medical personnel determined the injury called for the 20-hour return to port. The crewman was then airlifted to a hospital for surgery that saved his leg, which was broken in three places.

Lessons learned
An investigation revealed that fatigue and poor communication were factors. The vessel's standing policy was reinforced to ensure that hydraulic winches aren't used during times when crew members are working above deck or near the equipment.

Moving or rotating machinery must be guarded. Replace all machinery guards after work has been completed and prior to start-up.

Remember that machinery may be started from remote control stations or by automatic start. Before working on equipment, always lock it off and post warning signs and fish safe.

This article is based on U.S. Coast Guard reporting and is intended to bring safety issues to the attention of our readers. It is not intended to judge or reach conclusions regarding the ability or capacity of any person, living or dead, or any boat or piece of equipment.

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On Wednesday, the Coast Guard loaded 21,000 pounds of donated halibut on its C130 airplane in Kodiak and made the 634-mile flight to Nome.

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