Stevedores injured in series of accidents

Lookout! Issue 28, April 2013

Workers lashing and de-lashing containers on ships were involved in a series of similar accidents within several months. These incidents highlight the high-risk nature of this work activity.
Unguarded hatch
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
A stevedore fell 2.6 metres from the unguarded edge of this large hatch and received serious injuries.

In the first incident, a man slipped between two hatches, breaking his wrist and tearing tendons. He needed an operation on his wrist and was off work for several months. The man acknowledged he could have taken greater care about where he was stepping, in view of the dangerous nature of his work.

Unguarded edge
The stevedore fell from the unguarded edge of the hatch cover near where the number ‘07’ is marked.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

A few weeks later, a man fell 2.6 metres off the unguarded edge of a hatch while he was directing a crane lifting containers from a ship. His injuries included a broken nose and cheekbone, fractured skull, soft tissue damage to his shoulder, and a fracture to his right arm. He was unable to return to work for several months.

The man had been trained, supervised and empowered to do this type of work safely. Identified fall hazards on the ship were well managed using covers, gratings, stanchion and chain or solid metal guard rails. The area where the accident occurred was unable to be guarded, but the man had no reason to be working there at the exposed edge and could have undertaken the work from a safer location.

Within several weeks, another man was lifting lashing rods free of containers from above his head and directing their fall onto the deck when a rod bounced and struck him on the side of the head.

He sustained a cut that required stitches and several days away from work. The company’s procedures made it clear that rods had to be carefully lowered by hand, and not be allowed to fall uncontrolled.

Soon after that incident, a man fell 2.9 metres from an area adjacent to the top of a vertical ladder and through a hatch. He suffered serious injuries to his head, spine, chest and abdomen and his recovery was expected to take about a year.

The other side of the hatch shows fold-up guardrails that are lifted up and fixed in place to stop crew from falling when there are no containers stored on deck.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

The man had chosen to work in the position next to where he fell so that he could see the numbers on the ends of containers.

This was despite the company allowing containers to be lifted to a safe position so that numbers could be read.

The ship’s owner has since taken action to ensure that numbers on containers are clearer, and to find engineering solutions for fall hazards on the ship.

Not long afterwards, a stevedore fell 2.9 metres through an opening in a walkway at the top of a vertical ladder. He had been looking upward while using a pole to de-lash containers. He suffered a gash to his leg requiring staples and stitches.

The accident occurred shortly after he had climbed the ladder, neglecting to close the hinged cover. This was despite the company’s policy requiring employees to close covers when working within 2 metres of such openings.


  • Slips, trips and falls are the most common workplace hazard for stevedoring. Where employees were expected to be working and at risk of falling, appropriate safety measures were in place to protect or cover any opening in a deck or exposed edge.
  • Lashing and de-lashing work is undertaken by shore personnel rather than ship’s crew. The incidents are covered under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. However, no apparent legislative breaches were identified.
  • The employer had well-established health and safety procedures and a clear commitment to ensuring the safety of their employees.
  • The victims and other employees interviewed spoke highly about the induction, training, and supervision they had received. The injured men said they were well supported by their employer’s safety policies, and they felt empowered to refuse to undertake any work when they felt it would not be safe to do so.

MNZ’s free DVD, “Container Lashing and De-Lashing”, provides an overview of the relevant safety requirements for this work.

To order a copy, email

Or watch the lashing and delashing clips on MNZ’s YouTube channel:

Watch lashing and delashing

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