Belfast Telegraph

Trawler deckhand suffered life-changing injuries in pole accident

A deckhand suffered "horrific" life-changing injuries when he was hit on the head by a steel pole which came loose on a prawn trawler.

Marine accident investigators have issued new safety recommendations following the incident which happened on August 3, 2016, in the Firth of Clyde.

The accident happened as deckhands on the Sea Harvester tried to untangle fishing gear which had become snagged, probably on a wreck.

During the attempt to wind the snagged fishing gear onto the net drum, the tension in one of the bridle ropes, in conjunction with the vessel's motion in the moderate seas, bent a guiding-on pole and forced it from its socket.

Aurelian Dinu, 30, from Romania, was struck on the side of the head by the pole and was knocked unconscious.

He was transferred to hospital by helicopter having suffered serious, life-changing injuries which left him totally dependent on all care and unable to follow commands.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspection on August 9, 2016 identified 15 deficiencies, including that the required annual self-certification had not been completed since March 2014 and risk assessments were not seen.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report, published on Thursday, found that three of the four Romanian deckhands, including Mr Dinu, had not completed any of the mandatory Seafish training courses while the Ghanian crewman had not completed a Seafish safety awareness course.

The report said: "Sea Harvester's owners' use of deckhands who had not completed mandatory safety-related training courses and, in some cases, could not speak or understand English, was a commercial expedience taken in response to the unavailability of local, trained fishermen."

It added: "Without suitably-trained fishermen, risk assessments to identify and mitigate hazards or self-certification to confirm that safety equipment was compliant with the relevant checklist for the vessel's size, both vessel and crew safety were compromised."

Investigators also noted Mr Dinu was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and the crew did not routinely wear either helmets or life-jackets.

It said that "in common with the crews on board many UK-registered fishing vessels, Sea Harvester's crew did not routinely wear either, despite working on deck with heavy loads and tensioned wires in rough seas."

The report stated: "In this case, the degree of protection that would have been afforded by the wearing of a safety helmet is uncertain.

"Nonetheless, some protection, no matter how limited, could have potentially reduced the severity of the horrific, life-changing injuries that Aurelian sustained."

At the time of the incident, Sea Harvester was based in Ardglass, Northern Ireland, and was co-owned by its skipper.

The MAIB has now issued a flyer to the fishing industry to highlight the safety issues identified in the report and has recommended the owners of the Sea Harvester take steps to promote the safe operation of their vessels.

Sea Harvester's owners have modified the securing arrangement for the vessel's guide-poles to reduce the likelihood of them dislodging when hauling.

They have also r eviewed similar arrangements on other vessels they own together and c ompleted a health and safety risk assessment.

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