BSEE: Workers Hauled into Air by Taglines Four Times Since November

Rig worker hauled aloft by a tagline (BSEE)

Published May 16, 2023 4:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

After a series of offshore accidents in which riggers were hauled into the air by tangled taglines, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has issued a warning to operators about the hazards of lifting operations. None of the accidents resulted in injury, but they had high potential to cause harm to personnel. 

According to BSEE, there have been four separate tagline incidents on the U.S. OCS since last November. The incidents varied in severity, but in the worst case, the rigger ended up dangling from a tagline about 20 feet off the deck. 

In the first incident, a deckhand on an OSV got his leg tangled in a tagline after unhooking a load. The crane operator began raising the hook, and the deckhand's leg was raised about two feet off the deck before the operator stopped. The deckhands crewmates helped support him while the crane whip lowered again. 

In the second, after a series of lifts aboard an offshore platform, workers were sending a bundle of taglines up to the top deck on the crane hook. One of the riggers got tangled in a tagline as the bundle went up, and he was lifted about 8-10 feet over the top of a shipping container. He was able to grab and hang onto one of the lines, and the safety flagger spotted him before the situation could get any worse. The crane operator lowered him back down without any further incident. 

The third incident occurred in December. After taking aboard a bundle of pipe from an offshore platform, a deckhand on an OSV attached taglines onto the crane hook to return lines back up. When the taglines were lifted, he got tangled in them and was hoisted about five feet off the deck. He landed on a bundle of pipe and was able to free himself without injury. 

In January, a worker on a rig stepped onto a coiled tagline as a welding machine was being lifted into the air. He grabbed the tagline while entangled, and he was lifted 20 feet off the deck before the crane operator stopped the lift. He was lowered back onto the deck without harm.

To reduce risk, BSEE advised the use of push-poles, tangle-free taglines, and taglines that are just the right length. It recommended against taking a wrap around any other material to control a swaying load, a standard practice for deck operations. It also reiterated standard guidance: stay out of the bight, wear gloves, inspect the condition of the line, do not walk under the load, check your rigging before the lift, and hold a toolbox talk before operations begin. 

BSEE did not address workers' access to adequate means to cut themselves free from entanglement. Knives are essential safety equipment for mariners; however, they are often banned on offshore rigs by company policy and may not be available to personnel for their intended purpose - self-rescue in the event of a line-handling emergency, particularly entanglement.  

Unavailability of edged tools has proven to be a serious safety hazard offshore. In 2010, a liferaft of survivors from the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010 was nearly lost in the fire because no one aboard had a knife to quickly cut the raft's painter line.