Near miss: Water bottles reused for fuel storage

What happened

During a vessel inspection, plastic water bottles were discovered being reused to store diesel on board a fast rescue craft (FRC). There was no proper labelling or means of substance identification. The bottles were emptied subsequently and discarded accordingly. A safety stand down was held with the crew.

What went wrong/causes

  • Inappropriate management and handling of flammable liquid – water bottles used not for their intended purpose, but for storage of diesel fuel without any proper labelling;
  • The storage of fuel oil or other chemical substances in drinking water containers was a ‘usual’ practice for the crew due to alleged unavailability of special containers on board;
  • Lack of safety awareness: the potential risks of fire or spill, and the possible consequences to the crew members, environment and to the vessel, were not identified, nor properly assessed.

Lessons learnt/Actions taken

  • All flammable and combustible liquids should be stored in a designated storage area in special containers with sufficient ventilation means in line with SDS indicated storage requirements;
  • Water bottles should not be reused. There have been and are incidents in the industry of accidental consumption of fuel, thinners and other substances, due to water bottles being reused for other substances;
  • Vessel management should identify requirements for appropriate and suitable containers for chemical storage, observing regulatory and operational requirements, and arrange delivery as necessary;
  • Full crew discussion and review of risks associated with inadequate handling/storage of flammable and hazardous substances.