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Scalding injury to crew member

The Marine Safety Forum (MSF) has published a safety alert about an incident in which a crewman on a vessel suffered scalding injuries to his arms. The incident occurred during topping up of the cooling system of the main engines.

On the day before the incident, main engine cooling water tests were conducted in line with the planned maintenance system. These tests showed a need to top up the chemicals in the cooling water of three of the four main engines.

On the morning of the incident the injured person, an engine cadet, was working under the supervision of the second engineer. He was tasked with topping up the chemicals in the cooling system of the main engines. Two of the three engines requiring top up were completed, after which the injured person was sent to continue a painting task he had previously been given.

At 12:00 the vessel was called in to work near the installation they were attending – at the same time there was a shift change and the third engineer took over watch keeping duties. The appropriate list of checks was completed and the vessel was alongside the installation ready to work at 12:42, with all four engines on line.

At 13:15 the injured person returned from lunch and informed the third engineer that he had completed the painting task assigned to him earlier in the day, and asked if there were other tasks that needed completing. Thethird engineer, keen to clear the outstanding planned maintenance, asked that the injured person complete the topping up of the cooling system on the remaining engine. The injured person accepted the task and proceeded to the engine room. The engines on board had a lower temperature and a higher temperature header tank. Both required topping up.

At approximately 13:19, he removed the cap from the high temperature header tank on main engine no. 3. As the engine was running, the removal of the cap released 90°C water at 7 psi, spraying it across both forearms of the cadet, causing second degree burns to both arms.

First aid treatment was given on board. Following medical advice from shore side medical support, the vessel diverted to port to send the injured person to hospital for further treatment. Subsequent to that further hospital treatment he returned home the next morning to the care of his local doctor.

The MSF safety alert identifies the following causes of the incident:

  • The third engineer, supervising the injured person, was on his first trip as a newly qualified officer. He had had insufficient time for thorough familiarisation before starting sole watch keeping duties, to provide the knowledge and experience of the vessel for him to be deemed genuinely competent in the operation of that vessel;
  • Given his lack of understanding and knowledge of the machinery on board, the third engineer was not aware that the cap must not be removed from the HT header tank whilst the engine was in operation or until cooled down following operations;
  • The injured person, being a cadet and having carried out the task previously, accepted without question that the task should be carried out whilst the engine was running and whilst the vessel was within the 500m zone.

IMCA notes the importance of communication, particularly at shift and crew handover.

The following corrective actions were identified by the MSF and the company submitting the incident:

  • All new joining crew, whether recently qualified or new to the vessel, should be given time for thorough familiarisation of all aspects of their duties on board;
  • Assumptions should not be made that, because a newly qualified officer has passed his or her Certificate of Competency, they are instantly competent to undertake unsupervised watch keeping. An assessment should be made of the individual’s competence prior to transfer of such responsibility;
  • No maintenance should take place on machinery, either running or in standby mode, whilst in the 500m zone;
  • Cadets have the same authority and responsibilities to stop the job as all other crew members. The purpose of cadetships is to learn and develop – if cadets are unsure, ask!
  • Consider the use of a warning sign (where not already present) to not release the filler cap when the engine is running and/or the coolant is hot.

The full report can be foundat

Members may wish to refer to the following incident (search word: scalded):

Safety Event

Published: 9 November 2016
Download: IMCA SF 30/16

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