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Inadvertently drinking hazardous substances

What happened

Someone unintentionally drank a hazardous substance out of a drinking water bottle.  The incident occurred when crew members were painting on deck.  During the work, one member of the crew went for a drink from the galley. He found a plastic bottle that seemed to be filled with water.  However, this bottle was filled with paint thinners, and he unavoidably ingested about 20ml of the substance. The thinners entered his throat and stomach. The person involved drank milk and water afterwards and already felt a bit better. He felt it was not necessary to see a doctor at that time.

However, throughout the subsequent night, he vomited multiple times. In the morning he was sent to hospital.  After consultation in the hospital, he received medication and was able to return to work the next day.

What went wrong

An empty drinking water bottle was used for thinners to mix paint. However, the person involved thought he was drinking from a standard plastic water bottle.

Lessons learned

Our member notes that incidents like this happen more and more frequently and could potentially cause severe injuries.

  • Ensure that all bottles or containers used to store hazardous substances are correctly labelled and clearly identified;
  • Ensure that chemicals and hazardous substances are stored appropriately and not left in the mess or galley;
  • Check and ensure that no hazardous substances are ever stored in drinking bottles.

For information, additional lessons from a similar previous incident are reiterated here:

  • If it is necessary to decant chemicals from their original containers:
    • Always decant the chemicals in the chemical storage area
    • Use a container in good condition, of type appropriate for the chemical
    • Ensure that containers are clearly labelled. The labels should be clean and legible and should include:
      • full product name
      • Manufacturer name
      • Material safety data sheet (MSDS) reference

Do not use bottles normally used for, or associated with, drinking water

IMCA notes that this is an area that perhaps needs more focus. Please review the following similar incidents:

Safety Event

Published: 9 June 2021
Download: IMCA SF 16/21

Relevant life-saving rules:
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