Safety training saves a life after rope entanglement and person overboard

AMSA has released a safety incident report that highlights how a fishing vessel safety management system, properly applied in practice, saved the life of a young man in WA.

In 2022 off the WA coast, two crew were setting cray pots on the port and starboard side of a fishing vessel. Both crew were wearing an inflatable lifejacket.

During one setting, one crew’s foot became entangled in a pot rope dragging them over the side. The second crew raised the ‘person overboard (PoB)’ alarm and the master immediately stopped the vessel, looked out the wheelhouse’s port window, saw the PoB take a last breath before being pulled underwater and instructed the pot rope be attached to the pot winch.

The master and crew, having practiced PoB emergency procedure drills regularly throughout in the season, quickly recovered the PoB, via the pot winch. The master ran down from the bridge and grabbed the PoB to support them while the second crew deployed the person overboard portable ladder and cut the rope from the crew’s leg. The PoB was immediately given first aid.

The PoB sustained some water in the lungs, but was otherwise unharmed and was taken to hospital for overnight observation.

The investigation identified the following contributory factors to the successful recovery of the PoB:

  • The master and crew had identified the person overboard hazards and accompanying risks.
  • They had assessed the risks, and included within their safety management system emergency procedures for each of the different scenarios of person overboard.
  • The crew conducted regular person overboard emergency drills during the season, including actions on when a person went overboard due to rope entanglement during pot setting.
  • They had a knife stored next to the pot winch for emergency use and a person overboard ladder stored close by and readily accessible.

As is recommended, the ‘hazard’ (a pot rope around leg/PoB) had been readily identified by the master and crew as a real possibility given the nature of their pot setting tasks. They assessed the risks and how to minimise them, agreed the appropriate crew numbers for the vessel operation and updated the vessel’s safety management system’s emergency preparedness procedures.

Because the emergency procedures had been regularly practiced/drilled, the crew were well trained for the experience, wearing lifejackets and the person overboard was saved quickly and was relatively unharmed. Well done!

It is understood that because the vessel safety management systems were well laid out and emergency procedures were practiced, there will be no breach recorded for the incident.

You can find out more here or check out the new Sea Safe website for other safety tips and tactics.