A member has reported an incident in which a diver was injured subsea whilst disconnecting a flange on a damaged flexible pipe. The incident had occurred after the diver had removed all but four of the bolts and nuts and was in the process of removing the last four bolts. He was in the process of sending the removed bolts and nuts up to the surface via the messenger line on the down line, when he heard a loud bang and was then struck in the leg by the flange, which had unexpectedly parted from the opposing flange. There had been no indication during the disconnection that the flanges were parting.
The diver sustained a wound on his right leg just below the knee and was safely recovered to the vessel and immediately treated on board. As a precaution, he was transferred to a nearby fixed platform, for further medical treatment and helicopter transfer to a shore side hospital, where he remained overnight.
Though he received initial treatment including antibiotics to stabilize the injury, following a short period in the hospital, the wound received became more seriously infected with gangrene. The injured person was repatriated to a hospital in his home country where in due course he made a full recovery.
Our member noted the following:
- All pre-dive procedures were conducted properly; there was a dive plan, a risk assessment and a toolbox talk held;
- The diver reported that nothing seemed out of the ordinary during the dive, and that the operation was a normal flange disconnection.
Our member drew the following lessons from the incident:
- The importance of stored energy / body positioning during diving operations -it was concluded that the risk assessment for this type of connection was insufficient in the area of engineering and stress analysis, and that preventative measures to be considered may include tensioned tie backs, or actually releasing possible stored energy through a series of cuts along the pipe;
- The importance of proper wound aftercare immediately following diver recovery, and the dangers and potential severity of infection in skin-breaking injuries, no matter the size or severity of the wound. This is especially important in diving operations in inshore or tropical waters;
- Also while appropriate aftercare was administered, a more aggressive antibiotic approach should have been taken. Further awareness and education about microbial agents in the water, and the ways to identify and treat possible infections, should be made available to health professionals.
Members may wish to refer to the following incidents (search words: wound, infection):
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