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Lifejacket battery caught fire

During an inspection on a vessel in cold lay-up, the lifejackets stored underneath a sitting bench in the wheelhouse were found burned and melted. No-one was harmed; apart from the jackets, nothing was damaged.

Burned lifejackets

The lamp used in the lifejackets
Lalizas 71209 lamp of lifejacket

What went wrong?

A Lithium battery (3.6v) had exploded in one of the self-igniting lights.  As the bench was in a properly closed position, without any gaps, the fire could not spread due to a lack of oxygen. Therefore the fire was not detected and did not activate a fire alarm, as the smoke was contained inside the storage compartment. Investigation showed that the battery of the “Lalizas 71209” life jacket light had expired five months earlier. 

A possible cause could be that this battery was exposed to moisture before the lay-up period and water ingress affected the battery content after the lifejacket was put back in storage.

Lessons and actions

  • Store such equipment in a secure, dry and cool place away from flammable materials;
  • Keep batteries of any kind away from metal objects to avoid short circuit between the terminals;
  • Lithium batteries in your work place:
    • Assess where Lithium batteries are present and check, if possible, the condition of the battery and cover;
    • Verify the expiry date of the battery;
    • Regularly inspect batteries of lifejacket lights and other devices like radios as per planned maintenance schedule;
    • If batteries are expired or damaged, remove them and dispose of them properly;
  • For laid-up vessels, it may be appropriate to consider whether or not to remove Lithium batteries and other hazardous materials from vessels before going onto lay-up.

Members may wish to refer  to:

Safety Event

Published: 10 January 2022
Download: IMCA SF 01/22

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