What Are Mooring Line Snap Back Accidents?

Mooring operations are some of the most important jobs offshore crew members perform. They are also one of the most difficult and dangerous. If proper safety protocols are not followed, workers are at risk of suffering severe injuries that can even be fatal.

What Is a Mooring Operation?

A mooring operation describes the task of attaching a vessel to a stationary object. Mooring operations can involve weights, anchors, ropes, wires, pins, hooks, and rings. The type of mooring operation used on a vessel depends on what size the vessel is. No matter what type of mooring operation a vessel uses, the process is typically among the most dangerous activities for a crew.

Mooring Operation Dangers

A vessel’s mooring area contains equipment and systems such as hydraulic motors, winches, piping valves, bollards, and anchor chains. Often, lines used during the process have the potential to break, causing them to snap back with significant—and often deadly—force.

Several factors can lead to an accident during a mooring operation:

  • Using damaged or old ropes and wires
  • Not fastening the mooring ropes at the winch drum end
  • Using mooring equipment that is not properly maintained
  • Failing to make crew members aware of the snap back zone
  • Using an untrained or undersized operating crew
  • Having an unclear mooring area
  • Lack of a non-slip deck
  • Directly joining the rope and metal line without using a thimble
  • Arranging ropes on a split type drum incorrectly

Snap Back Accidents in the Mooring Operation

The biggest danger in the mooring operation is the risk of a snap back accident, which occurs when the rope or wire fails and “snaps back” toward the vessel. The parted rope or wire can travel back to the vessel with enough force to kill any crew member who is standing in what is known as the snap back zone – the area in which the rope or wire could potentially land on the vessel.

When ropes are pulled in a straight line, the snap back zone is relatively small, but if the ropes are turned in a roller or bollard, this area increases significantly. Every vessel should have the snap back zone clearly marked with paint so that crew members know where not to stand when ropes are in tension.

Rope Bight: Another Devastating Mooring Line Accident

When the lines of a vessel are coiled, they form something called a rope bight. If a worker has an extremity in the middle of a rope bight as a line is uncoiling, it can cause serious injury or drag them overboard. To avoid rope bight incidents, workers must be aware of where they are standing in relation to any rope that might be used during the mooring process. One way to reduce the risk of rope bight incidents is to make sure only the crewmembers needed for mooring are on deck. Fewer people mean less of a chance of an unexpected accident!

Preventing Mooring Line Accidents

One of the worst aspects of serious mooring line accidents is that they can be prevented with the right equipment, safety training, and maintenance.

Mooring accidents can be prevented by:

  • Making sure only essential crew are present during mooring operations
  • Always paying attention to weather conditions, such as wind and rain
  • Informing all crew members of snap back zones
  • Tending one line at a time to prevent stressing other lines
  • Using mooring lines of the same material and size
  • Maintaining all mooring equipment so there’s no chance of failure during an operation
  • Arranging all mooring lines symmetrically
  • Always keeping the load of each line to no more than 55% of its maximum limit
  • Checking mooring lines even after an operation is complete

Injuries Caused by Mooring Line Accidents

The speed, weight, and force exerted on the human body by a snapped line can be catastrophic.

Common injuries caused by snapped mooring lines include:

Seeking Compensation After Mooring Line Operation Accidents

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a snap back accident, you should consult with an offshore accident lawyer about your legal rights. The Jones Act protects offshore workers, so it is important that you seek out a lawyer familiar with maritime law.

At Arnold & Itkin, we have a long history of representing injured offshore workers across the country. Contact our Jones Act lawyers today for a free consultation.

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