Hand injury whilst using pillar drill

What happened

The Marine Safety Forum (MSF) has published an alert in which someone was injured whilst using a pillar drill. An experienced engineer was changing out a drill bit on a tower drill in the engine room workshop. While doing so he inadvertently operated the wrong handle and started the drill. The engineer was wearing gloves to carry out this task and as the drill turned the glove caught and turned with the drill bit, trapping his hand inside and causing a hand injury.

He was sent ashore for treatment.

What went wrong/causes

The subsequent investigation highlighted several safety critical points, a selection of which are noted below:

  • The drill had multi-function controls (including clutch speed, gears, slow and fast operation, on/off switches) none of which were actually marked to indicate their purpose;
  • By its design, the emergency stop button for the drill did not clearly identify to the operator when it was engaged or deactivated;
  • There was no ‘green light’ (or similar indicator) to show when the equipment was ‘energised’.

Any modification of equipment should only be done after consultation and agreement with the manufacturer to ensure the modification does not adversely interfere or affect any of the other functions of the drill.

Lessons learnt/actions taken

  • The company reporting the incident introduced ‘drill familiarisation’ to the engineers’ induction;
  • A full and comprehensive risk assessment should be carried out for the use of all engine room equipment;
  • Engineers intending to use the equipment should be fully familiar with those risk assessments and comply with their requirements;
  • IMCA notes that in many countries there are regulatory requirements (the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) in the UK) which should have been applied with regard to equipment control markings.

Note: A more recent model of the same drill incorporates a safety feature where the drill cannot be operated if the drill guard is in the open position. Such safety features should be function-checked to ensure they are fully operational before carrying out any drill changes.