Are Offshore Personnel Basket Transfers Safe?
The Gulf of Mexico is filled with lift boats, jack-up rigs, drilling rigs, and platforms. These vessels are all necessary for the retrieval of gas and oil from the region's rich mineral deposits. To transfer workers to and from their jobsites, many companies use personnel baskets or Billy Pugh baskets to get the job done.
As any worker who has been involved in such transfers can tell you, these operations can be scary and may result in injury. These basket transfers are even more dangerous when paired with poor weather, such as heavy rain, high winds, or rough seas. Inexperienced crane operators have also been at fault for serious injuries during risky basket transfers.
How Transfers by Personnel Baskets Work
Crews are transferred using a crane to lift a personnel transfer device, also known as a Billy Pugh basket. The personnel transfer device is typically a circular platform with webbing in the center. This webbing serves two purposes: it provides a place to store items, and it provides workers with something to hold onto during the transfer. During a basket transfer, crews climb onto the edge of the personnel transfer device, store their items in the middle, and are then lifted by the crane and moved to another vessel.
Crews should follow these steps during a transfer by personnel basket:
- All workers should stand clear of the basket until it is resting on the vessel.
- Workers should only approach the basket when instructed by the deck crew.
- Place all items in the center of the basket.
- Machinery or equipment should never be placed inside a personnel basket transfer device.
- Ensure that you are wearing a life vest before stepping onto the basket.
- Place one foot on the basket ring and keep the other on the vessel with a slightly bent knee.
- Grasp the ropes that make up the webbing and interlock your arms through them in a crisscross fashion.
- The deck crew will signal for the crane operator to lift the basket.
- The crane operator will lift the basket and transfer it to the other vessel.
- As the basket is lowered, prepare to step off the basket with one foot.
- Always listen to the deck crew, remove your belongings, and move away from the basket as soon as possible.
Why Basket Transfers Are Dangerous
During these transfers, a personnel basket is attached to a crane. One or more workers hold on to the Billy Pugh basket's netting. The crane operator lifts the basket, swings it up and over the side of the first vessel, and lifts or lowers the basket and workers to their destination. If all goes smoothly and there are no problems, everyone can get to work. Unfortunately, there are numerous risks associated with basket transfers, and companies don't always take necessary precautions.
Many basket transfer injuries occur because of one of four circumstances:
- Human Error—The crane operator may lower the basket too quickly, or swing the basket in the wrong direction, causing impact injuries to the workers inside. Without the proper experience or training, these operators can put numerous people at risk. Click here to see just how wrong a basket transfer can go.
- Unsafe Sea Conditions—Safety protocol and rules dictate that Billy Pugh basket transfers should not be attempted if the seas are too rough, but many companies ignore these guidelines. When high seas cause one or both vessels involved in the transfer to move, it becomes extremely difficult to transfer workers without causing injury.
- High Winds—When the winds are high, basket transfers are far more challenging. The Billy Pugh basket is also at a higher risk for bumping into a vessel or swaying dangerously, often resulting in serious injuries.
- Defective Equipment—If the equipment used to transfer workers is defective or malfunctions, injuries may occur. From crane mishaps to damaged basket netting or ropes, even the most minor defect may lead to a major accident.
A transfer by personnel basket is a task that requires every person involved to be completely engaged with what is happening. When a worker falls from a basket, they risk severe injury and can even drown if they fall into the water. A crane operator, deck crews, transferring workers, and all nearby parties must be constantly aware of conditions and surroundings to prevent a serious accident from occurring. While transfers by personnel basket are common throughout the offshore industry, they remain a possible threat to the safety of workers.
Falling into Freezing Water Is a Heart Attack Risk
Even if a worker isn’t injured from a fall into the water during a transfer, cold shock places them at risk. It creates an intense strain on the heart and can trigger a variety of dangerous health issues. To retain heat, blood vessels on the outer part of the body constrict, which shifts blood to inner organs to increase their body temperature. In some cases, this causes momentary discomfort, but for those at high risk for heart disease, constricting blood vessels in the heart can lead to a heart attack.
If a person manages to survive the heart strain and involuntary gasping, they have only minutes before their bodies become hypothermic. Hypothermia, however, is not always sudden. Some people can survive for up to 30 minutes in icy water. Their ability to swim declines substantially the longer their bodies are immersed since blood flow is cut off to non-essential muscles.
Immersion in freezing cold water can cause several injuries, including:
- Immersion dieresis
- Saltwater Aspiration Syndrome
- Swimming-induced pulmonary edema
Arnold & Itkin Is the Right Choice for Your Offshore Injury Case
While Billy Pugh and other basket transfers have become part of the routine of offshore work, they are still extremely dangerous for the workers involved. If you or a loved one has been injured in a personnel basket transfer, you need an experienced and qualified maritime attorney to represent your challenging case.
Arnold & Itkin has won more than $10 billion for our clients. We are committed to helping workers who have been hurt during basket transfers, and we have successfully held companies responsible for putting their workers at risk, whether by doing transfers in bad weather, with poorly trained crane operators, or using defective or aging equipment.
Contact an offshore injury attorney from our firm today to discuss your situation in a free, confidential consultation.