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Person accidentally drank hazardous substance

A member has reported an incident in which someone inadvertently took a mouthful of a hazardous substance. The incident occurred when the Bosun was tasked with conducting ‘routine’ chipping and painting on deck. Feeling thirsty, he noticed two plastic bottles with drinking water labels on the table next to the accommodation entrance. He opened the cap of one the bottles and took a gulp – he immediately tasted solvent and spat out the liquid, before seeking first aid treatment.

Our member’s investigation revealed the following:

  • There was a failure of control of substances hazardous to health:
  • ‘Thinners’ had been decanted into incorrect storage, with insufficient warning labels
  • Flammable materials were stored incorrectly near to or in accommodation
  • Incorrect Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) held on file, delaying immediate medical treatment;

There was unsafe use of incorrect storage containers, leaving maintenance materials (thinners) incorrectly stored in the accommodation;

  • No verification was done on board of the vessel to ensure there was proper and suitable equipment available for transferring small amounts of paint and thinners;
  • There was poor communication of safe storage and labelling requirements on the vessel;
  • There was a lack of communication between parties, as an incorrect type of MSDS was initially offered to medics;
  • There was no supervision, no oversight and a lack of control over storage and labelling applications of chemical substances and of the MSDS register held on-board.


Our member took the following actions:

  • The Bosun received first aid as per relevant MSDS requirements. He was transferred ashore by helicopter for further medical examination;
  • A safety stand down was carried out with the vessel crew to further outline the hazards created by inadequate storage, segregation and labelling of hazardous substances;
  • The vessel Master was instructed to have a check made throughout the vessel to see if there were any chemical agents stored in unlabelled bottles – in breach with the accepted norms and requirements.

Our member learnt the following lessons:

  • All hazardous chemicals should be clearly labelled;
  • Hazardous chemicals that are not in the manufacturer’s original container (working solutions, prepared for temporary use) should, at a minimum, be labelled with the contents. A suitable container should be used; . Drinking water bottles and/or other drinks in bottles and food should not be kept at the direct worksite, particularly not where chemicals are being used; . Chemical substances used on board should be accompanied at all times with easily accessible and easily identifiable MSDS.

Safety Event

Published: 5 February 2016
Download: IMCA SF 04/16

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