Worker entangled while moving toward the Step Back Area; Source: BSEE

Four near misses with high injury potential hammer home the need to curb such offshore incidents

After examining the circumstances surrounding four recent high-potential, near-miss tagline entanglements during offshore operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has outlined a set of recommendations for oil and gas operators and contractors to assist in bringing down the number of such incidents in the future.

Worker entangled while moving toward the Step Back Area; Source: BSEE

In a recent safety alert, BSEE explained that there have been four incidents during offshore operations since November 2022, involving personnel becoming entangled in taglines and lifted with the load. However, none of the occurrences resulted in an injury despite the high potential for injury surrounding these events and operations.

The first incident occurred in November 2022 when a deckhand became entangled in a tagline after unhooking a load on the deck of an offshore motor vessel. The deckhand was lifted from the deck after the designated banksman signalled the crane operator to start the lift. When the lift began, the worker’s leg was lifted approximately two feet off the deck, causing the deckhand to become unbalanced. While the crane operator lowered him down to the motor vessel deck, other crew members were able to support the deckhand’s upper body.

The second incident also happened in November 2022 when a rigger became entangled in the lines on the main deck below while crane crews were sending a bundle of taglines to the top deck, after completing multiple lifts from one deck to another. The rigger was able to grab and hang onto the tagline while being lifted approximately 8-10 feet over a conex box. Upon seeing the rigger in the air, the flagger signalled an all-stop and the crane operator was able to safely lower the rigger down without further incident.

The third incident took place in December 2022 when a deckhand became entangled in the lines after the taglines were lifted following the backloading of a bundle of pipe onto a motor vessel and attaching the taglines to the crane hook to send up to the platform. The worker was lifted approximately 3-5 feet above the deck onto a bundle of pipe where he was able to free himself without injury. Afterwards, a safety stand-down was conducted, and the importance of tagline safety was reinforced to the crews.

The fourth incident occurred in January 2023 when a crew member moved into the Step Back Area while lifting a welding machine from the deck, stepped into the coiled tagline, and became entangled. The crew member was able to grab the tagline while entangled and was lifted up and swung with the load approximately 20 feet off the deck. After the signalman relayed to the crane operator to stop the lift, the rigger and load were lowered to the deck.

Tackling tagline entanglements to decrease incidents

Bearing in mind the frequency of these incidents, the BSEE recommends that operators and their contractors consider using hands-free tools instead of taglines whenever possible (e.g. push poles, etc.), however, if hands-free tools are not available, taglines marketed as tangle-free or anti-tangle should be used.

The U.S. regulator further advises operators and contractors to periodically inspect the condition of taglines to ensure they are in an adequate condition – free of knots, absent of frayed strands, etc. – and use taglines that are long enough to position the rigger safely away from the load, but not so long that they could snag on an obstruction during the lift.

Furthermore, operators and contractors should ensure the worker is not straddling a tagline or standing inside any coiled line and that the tagline remains fully in front of the worker. As workers should not be holding taglines in a manner that they cannot be easily released, operators and contractors should never allow a worker to wrap taglines around their hands, arms, legs, or body.

In addition, there should be no tying taglines to, or looping them around, any other equipment, material, or other taglines to help control the load and workers should wear appropriate gloves when handling taglines. Boathooks should be utilised to retrieve taglines near suspended loads to eliminate any line of fire hazard and if a worker loses grip and drops the tagline, they should not chase it for retrieval or walk under a load to retrieve a tagline.

Worker lifted with load after becoming entangled; Source: BSEE
Worker lifted with load after becoming entangled; Source: BSEE

Moreover, the BSEE highlights that operators and contractors should ensure work areas are free of clutter and remove all excess debris around a load before it is hooked up for a lift, and ensure the load travel path, all workspace, and egress routes are clear before the lift begins.

Communications should be discussed and tested – such as hand signals, radio, etc. – between the crane operator and other personnel before a lift to agree on a signal to indicate that the taglines are free, that personnel are clear, and the load is ready to be lifted. In line with this, operators and contractors need to ensure that all personnel can quickly signal the crane operator to stop the lift.

Additionally, operators and contractors should discuss with personnel the expectations for taglines if a load is being delivered to their facility by boat with taglines attached and ensure taglines are laid out properly before signalling to the banksman, designated flagger, or crane operator to begin the lift.

The U.S. regulator underlines that operators and contractors need to confirm communication methods and responsibilities are understood before the lift and are maintained consistently throughout the entire operation. They should also document potential hazards and mitigations related to the tagline use in the Job Safety Analysis.