Slips, trips and falls represent nearly one in three of the large personal injury claims submitted to the UK P&I Club

Books, Health and Safety, Maritime Education and Training, P and I Clubs, Safety and Security — By on April 18, 2012 at 11:42 AM

New Risk Focus publication aims to reduce the incidence of such accidents

Following the launch of its Bow Tie loss prevention initiative in January 2012, the UK P&I Club is now embarking on the publication of a series of ‘Risk Focus’ booklets which highlight specific areas of risk. This month (April) sees the publication of ‘Risk Focus: Slips, trips and falls’.

The Bow Tie loss prevention initiative involves surveyors visiting ships and, together with the managers and crew, producing Bow Tie charts specific to individual vessels that identify areas of risk and suggest how such risks might be mitigated.

As was stated at the time of the launch, extensive analysis of previous incidents over a period of 23 years has enabled the Club to identify ‘threats’, ‘consequences’ and ‘controls’, the foundations of developing reports on specific vessels. In total, the Club’s Risk Prevention Director Karl Lumbers estimates that it has identified seven primary risk hazards, 76 common threats, which if not contained could cause an incident and 450 controls which need to be in place and effective if the threats are to be contained.

Karl Lumbers

Risk Focus: Slips, trips and falls’ is in effect the first in a series of new Risk Focus publications although in October 2010, the Club published ‘Risk Focus: Moorings’ as a one-off publication that reflected concerns about the increasing numbers of serious incidents occurring during mooring activities.

Mr Lumbers states that slips, trips and falls represent nearly one in three of the large personal injury claims submitted to the UK Club and have amounted to a staggering $155 m over the past ten years: “They are constant too with very little variation in numbers of claims from year to year. They are important because they represent genuine pain and suffering from people who have been injured or even killed because they have slipped, tripped or fallen aboard ship. It is not simply a matter of money, squashed metal or damaged ships as encountered in other sorts of claim.”

Inevitably many of these claims are caused by a moment of carelessness, thoughtlessness or complacency as people have moved around a ship, possibly doing their jobs, or even just because the ship is not only their place of work but where they live. It is easy to dismiss these unpleasant accidents as ‘human error’ or even ‘crew negligence’ but to examine the detail of so many of them is to reveal other contributors to the chain of causation. Training could have been deficient or even completely missing as there is often an assumption that people ‘can look after themselves’ and must take responsibility for their own actions.

As Mr Lumbers says, “The environment, which is mostly a function of design, may well have been a contributor: if there was inadequate lighting, if the dangers were not obvious, or the particular design of the ship required people to put themselves in hazardous situations just to get the job done. Visitors to the ship unfamiliar with the layout of the vessel are especially vulnerable. 

“Because of the huge costs of these claims and because of the human suffering represented by each of them, we strongly believe that a concerted attack must be made on the incidence of slips, trip and falls. We need to understand better the reasons behind the existence of these hazards so that we can put in place controls that will hopefully prevent accidents occurring, but will also mitigate their consequences when they do.”

As the Bow Tie project has already proven, a proactive and precautionary approach can be very useful and in this case should enable the Club to reduce the incidence of slips, trips and falls, firstly by identifying hazards which have the potential to harm.

Mr Lumbers states that very often accidents occur because nobody has considered that what they are doing might be hazardous. He explains: “Just walking around the ship with a sharp eye and an open mind can help to identify features which might, in an unguarded moment, hurt people. It is often not the obvious like working at height or with machinery that will cause the accidents because an experienced seafarer will probably be taking the proper precautions and will be adequately clad, with procedural controls in place. Rather, just moving around the ship, going up and down companionways and ladders, carrying weights or neglecting to keep ‘one hand for the ship and one for yourself’ are frequently behind very nasty accidents.”

Concluding, ‘Risk Focus: Slips, trips and falls’ discusses some simple actions that will hopefully reduce incidents and so prevent distress and pain being imposed on so many seafarers, ship visitors and their dependents.

UK P&I Club

The United Kingdom Mutual Steam Ship Assurance Association (Bermuda) Limited is generally known as the UK P&I Club. As a mutual association, the UK Club has no outside shareholders and no financial links with other organisations. Since its establishment in 1869, the Club has existed solely for the benefit of its members. Its structure as a mutual insurance association enables it to respond to the changing needs of its assureds and allows it to provide superior service, attention and coverage.

The UK P&I Club is directed by the members. Overall control lies with the directors, elected by the members from amongst themselves. The directors normally meet four times a year to formulate policy on calls, the scope of cover, finance, underwriting and claims matters, reinsurance and issues affecting the P&I world. They resolve specific claims which may not fall clearly within the cover.

Thomas Miller, the Club’s managers, is organised to respond promptly to requests for assistance and to provide informed advice and help with members’ claims. Individual support goes far beyond that normally provided by a commercial insurer.

The UK Club’s size and the scale of the managers’ operations has enabled the latter to develop specialist skills and expertise seldom seen in marine P&I. In 350 ports around the world, on-the-spot help and local expertise is always available to members and the masters of their ships from the Club’s 460 correspondents and claims handling services and advice from the network of offices and branches in London, Piraeus, New Jersey, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai.

Thomas Miller

The Thomas Miller Group manages a number of world-leading mutual insurance organisations or “clubs, ” providing insurance for shipping, transport and professional indemnity risks; and captive insurance companies in the Isle of Man and Bermuda. Thomas Miller provides risk management consultancy services and, through its regulated specialist subsidiaries, delivers a full investment management service to mutual clubs, captives and other clients. The firm incorporated in 1999 and is owned and controlled by its 550 employees worldwide.

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