November 2015: Crushing injuries

Crushing and trapping of fingers and limbs can result in serious harm. The purpose of this bulletin is to remind people of the danger to fingers and limbs when working on vessels and what steps can be taken to reduce the risk.


There have been several recent reports of serious crushing injuries on New Zealand registered vessels. These injuries range from bruising to partial amputation. With the constant movement of vessels and the many moving parts on board, people need to be aware of their surroundings and take steps to avoid injury.


Safe practice tips

There are many areas on a vessel that pose a risk to personal safety and may lead to crushing injuries. The following safety tips will help you to be aware of some of the dangers, and what you can do to keep yourself and others safe.


  • Keep clear of moving machinery.
  • If you are operating machinery, make sure you follow the safe operating procedures. You may need to be trained in the correct use of the equipment.
  • Know how to stop the machinery in an emergency. Any emergency stop control should be clearly marked – large, clean, easy to see and easy to get to.
  • Where practicable, work in pairs; one person working the equipment, another keeping an eye out for any hazards and able to respond should anything go wrong.
  • Check that machine guards are in place before using the equipment.
  • Make sure the equipment is regularly checked and well maintained. Report any worn, frayed or damaged parts. If it looks unsafe, don’t use it.
  • Make sure you isolate the machinery before any maintenance is carried out. Turn off the power supply. Use appropriate signage to make sure no one else turns the machinery on while it is being maintained.
  • Where guards or interlocks are fitted, such as covers or safety switches, do not try and by-pass them. They are there to protect you.
  • Be extra vigilant when fishing gear is being payed away or hauled in. The strain of the load may cause gear to fail. The weight of the catch may cause the vessel to roll.

Moving objects

  • Secure items that could slide across a deck.
  • Stand clear of running warps and wires.
  • Be aware of overhead loads, especially when they are being lowered on to the deck.
  • Ensure that open doors and hatches are securely hooked back.

Safety equipment and clothing

  • Make sure you are wearing appropriate safety equipment and clothing. Loose fitting garments can get caught in moving parts.
  • Avoid wearing rings and other jewellery when working with moving parts.
  • Keep long hair tied back so that it doesn’t get caught and pull you into moving machinery.
  • Use the correct tool to clear a line from the sheave of a block. Don’t risk crushing your fingers.


  • Be aware of the environment you are working in. If the sea is rough, vessel movements will be greater, leading to objects moving and people slipping or falling.
  • Make sure you have enough lighting to do the job safely.
  • Keep things tidy on deck and below deck.
  • Be alert to your surroundings. Watch where you put your feet. Keep an eye out for objects moving overhead.

People factors

  • Fatigue – people working in a demanding environment are at risk of becoming fatigued. Make sure you are properly rested and take regular breaks. Keep active and alert. Keep an eye out for other crew. It’s okay to admit you are tired, especially if it prevents you and your crewmates from harm.
  • Make your intentions known. Tell the appropriate people where you are working and what you are doing. If you are repairing a piece of equipment, people need to know that it cannot be used while you are working on it.
  • Make sure there is good communication (common language) between machinery operators and the person in charge.

Original source content - Safety Bulletin Issue 32, November 2015: Crushing injuries.


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If you have any questions about this safety update, please contact our Wellington office.


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