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Finger injury during work with rotating machinery

What happened

Whilst working with a pillar drilling machine, a crewman got his glove caught in the rotating bit and dislocated his left thumb. The incident happened on an ocean-going cargo vessel. Two engine room crewmen were using a drilling machine in the engine room workshop to fabricate a small part. One of the crewmen put on leather gloves and tried to remove some metal chips that came out during the drilling process. His glove got entangled with the drill bit resulting in him dislocating his left thumb.

Both hand and foot operated emergency stop was immediately activated. The injured person was assisted by other crew members to cut off the glove and he was accompanied to the vessel hospital. After consultation with medical authorities over the radio, treatment was given on board. A splint with bandage was applied to immobilise the thumb and painkillers administered. Ten days later when the vessel came to port, the injured person was sent to the doctor, where he was declared medically unfit and signed off.

What went wrong/causes

  • There was no evidence of risk assessment, no toolbox talk was conducted;
  • The injured person was wearing gloves while using the drilling machine – there was a warning sign prohibiting wearing of gloves when operating the drill, posted in front of the drilling machine;
  • Lack of safety awareness/habits;
  • The immediate causes were:
    • Improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – the glove got entangled with the drill bit
    • Carelessness and lack of safety awareness – the warning sign prohibiting wearing of gloves when operating drilling machine was ignored
    • Improper use of equipment – the proper cleaning tools were not available for drilling and machining jobs;
  • Causal factors were:
    • Inadequate planning – this potential risk was not identified
    • Inadequate supervision;
  • The root cause was, the injured person did not follow instructions: he was not compliant with existing company requirement on PPE when working with rotating equipment.

Actions taken

  • Suitable and sufficient risk assessment to be carried out for routine and non-routine work;
  • More effective toolbox talks to be held discussing hazards and controls;
  • Reiteration of company policy that gloves are NOT TO BE WORN when working with rotating machinery;
  • Warning signage if posted to be clearly visible;
  • Consider additional supervision for less experienced crew.

Members may wish to refer to the following similar incident:

Please refer to IMCA’s short video on Be prepared to work safely – watch your hands

Safety Event

Published: 1 November 2017
Download: IMCA SF 28/17

Relevant life-saving rules:
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