A lack of supervision and communication contributed towards the death of an engineer onboard the Olivia Jean scallop dredger, an investigation has found.
An Indonesian man was fatally injured after being struck on the head by one of the vessel’s scallop dredge towing bars while working on deck.
He suffered crush injuries and was airlifted from the ship and taken to hospital for emergency treatment.
The 37-year-old spent nine days in the intensive care unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary before being transferred to a specialist neurological unit at the Edinburgh Western General Hospital, where he died on July 10 2019.
The incident took place at about 10pm on June 28 2019, and has been investigated by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.
They revealed that a number of onboard safety issues contributed to the engineer’s death, and made a number of recommendations to the managers of the boat, TN Enterprises.
The Olivia Jean was about 39 miles north-east of Aberdeen when the incident occurred, with the boat using Peterhead as its home port.
The engineer had replaced two worn dredges on the towing bar and stood clear as the skipper used the winches and derrick to lift and realign the gear against the vessel’s tipping door.
Unfortunately, one of the towing bar’s securing chains had not been released and the dredge gear became snagged.
Although the skipper shouted instructions to the crewman to remain clear as he attempted to free the gear, the engineer stepped between the snagged bar and the accommodation superstructure just as the snagged bar released and swung inboard.
He suffered crush injuries to his head.
The report found that the engineer thought that it was safe to approach the dredge gear when it came to rest, and might “have been influenced by an eagerness to make good his earlier omission, when he forgot to unhook the aft securing chain.”
The skipper of the boat had lost oversight of the deck crew and was unaware the man had moved towards the dredge gear.
He continued to operate the winches after he had entered the danger zone, and the bar swung to hit the engineer in the head.
Key safety issues
The MAIB highlighted a number of key safety issues that contributed to the fatal accident.
Communication between crew members was highlighted as a major issue due to three of the crew members having a “poor level of spoken English.”
The skipper and mate of the ship were both Scottish, while the crew on deck were Indonesian and Sri Lankan nationals.
The report added that “the deckhands and engineer were able to communicate with the skipper and mate sufficiently well to complete routine fishing operations, but had limited levels of English comprehension.”
This had an “adverse effect on the levels of communication onboard Olivia Jean, and potentially contributed to a lack of understanding of the skipper’s intentions when re-positioning the dredge equipment.”
In addition, the deck operations were not being properly supervised or controlled at the time of the accident.
The skipper had to rely on a CCTV screen to monitor the area, with the accident happening out of his sight.
In addition, if the engineer had been wearing head protection while working on deck, the severity of his injuries would have probably been reduced.
The vessel’s risk assessment did list this as a requirement but it was not followed.
The MAIB made a number of safety recommendations to TN Enterprises Ltd following this incident.
This included them reviewing their fleet operations, making sure they implement safety management onboard, and undertake a review of how well their foreign crews know English.
They must also introduce a formal pre-employment evaluation process to establish the standard of English of its potential crew members.
TN Enterprises Ltd has already reviewed their onboard risk assessments, identified and marked safe zone on deck for the crew during hauling and shooting operations, produced a safety video, and replaced their old hard hats with more comfortable safety helmets.
Similar incident on the same boat
The MAIB noted in the report a similar incident on the same boat that happened last year.
A British crewman on the Olivia Jean was struck by a towing bar during a dredge gear shooting operation on August 2.
The man moved out of the designated safe zone before being given clearance to leave, stepping into an unsafe area, and being struck by the towing bar when it unexpectedly moved.
He was taken to hospital after suffering chest injuries.
The MAIB report said: “Learning lessons from previous accidents can prevent injuries and save lives.
“In this case, the lessons learned and corrective action implemented did not prevent a near-identical accident from occurring to the crew onboard in August 2020.
“It was very fortunate that it did not result in another fatality.”