Bulletin No.: 07/1991

Date (Y-M-D): 1991-05-06

Subject: Accidents when Using Power Operated Watertight Doors

In 1981, Ship Safety Bulletin 4/81 referred to a recent fatal accident involving the operation of a power operated watertight door on board a Canadian ship, and outlined procedures to be followed by ships' crews to avoid such incidents. This notice was subsequent to the British Department of Trade Merchant Shipping Notice No. M830, dated February, 1978, also dealing with accidents caused by the improper operation of power operated sliding watertight doors.

Another fatality aboard a Canadian vessel last year has necessitated this reminder being issued. According to the Coroners Jury, this accident was caused by the improper use of a sliding watertight door.

In most cases the accident occurred when a crew member used local controls to pass through a watertight door which had been closed from the bridge control station. In this situation, if the local control is released, the door would automatically close with sufficient force to crush anyone caught in its path. Therefore, it is essential that the local controls, which are located on both sides of the bulkhead, are held in the open position while passing through the doorway. This is easily accomplished by opening the door using one hand, then reaching through the opening to the other controls to hold the door in the open position until the transit is complete. Two hands are essential to operate the controls; no one should attempt to carry a load through such a door without assistance. Section 16 (5) of the Hull Construction Regulations covers this procedure.

Investigations into such casualties generally conclude that either unfamiliarity with, or inattention to, operating procedures had been the prime cause. The victims would apparently not follow posted instructions, but simply open the door and attempt to pass through before it closed. Unfortunately, they either slipped or did not allow sufficient time to pass through, and were trapped by the closing door.

It should be stressed that, when the door is closing, an audible warning is given during which time no attempt should be made to transit the doorway.

When properly operated, power operated watertight doors do not constitute a hazard to the crew. It is, therefore, essential that all crew members are well trained in the correct operating procedures and that permanent notices clearly stating the correct operating procedures are prominently displayed on both sides of each door. This training should highlight the crushing power of watertight doors, and should include a reminder to the ship's complement of their obligation to report any unsafe practices or hazardous conditions to their supervisor.

In some circumstances, when only one door-closing warning bell has been fitted, the bell cannot always be clearly heard on both sides of the open door. In such cases, a bell, or other suitable audible signal, should be fitted on each side of, and adjacent to, the watertight door concerned.

All power operated watertight doors are designed to ensure maximum safety of the ship and to persons using them, but safe transit through a door which has been closed from the bridge control station requires that the operating instructions be strictly observed.

Keywords:                                  Questions concerning this bulletin should be addressed to:

1. Accident
2. Sliding WT Door
3. WT Door
Transport Canada
Marine Safety
Tower C, Place de Ville
11th Floor, 330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N8

To add or change your address, contact us at: marinesafety@tc.gc.ca

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