Five Crew Members Die in Cruise Ship Emergency Drill


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Holding emergency drills is critical to ensuring that workers are prepared to respond properly in a fire, explosion or other emergency. Effective drills can eliminate or reduce the risk of injury—or worse—when something unexpected happens in the workplace.

Of course, you also have to ensure the drills themselves are conducted safely. A cruise line recently learned this lesson the hard way.

Five crew members on the British cruise ship Thomson Majesty died after a lifeboat fell from the vessel during an emergency drill at La Palma in the Canary Islands. Three other crew were injured in the incident.

According to the Guardian, it’s believed the boat dropped 17 metres into the water before overturning. It appears that a cable snapped.

Andrew Linington, a spokesman for Nautilus International, a trade union for seafarers, said lifeboat drills had a notorious danger record. “There’s been research which suggests that more people are dying in lifeboat drills than are being saved by lifeboats. It’s that serious.”

Linington said the danger was caused by a variety of factors, including the heights involved, corroded equipment being poorly maintained, unclear instructions and poor crew training.

An investigation into the issue in 2001 by Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch found 15% of all deaths involving professional seafarers involved lifeboat drills, with 12 deaths over 10 years and 87 people injured.

Canadian sailors are also at risk during drills. For example, in Portland, Maine, a sailor from Nova Scotia died and two others were injured during a lifeboat drill.

To ensure that your workers are properly prepared in the event of an emergency, go to the OHS Insider’s emergency preparedness and response compliance center for information, such as:

Go to Safety Smart for information on the value of drills. Not a subscriber to SafetySmart? Sign up for a free trial.

Buy posters on emergency preparedness at And at Safety Smart S.A.F.E. System, you can buy a system on emergency preparedness that includes:

  • Posters
  • A meeting outline
  • Table tents
  • Safety cards
  • Quizzes.