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Watch your hands!! person injured while using an angle grinder

What happened

A member of the crew was badly injured whilst cutting a piece of wood using an angle grinder fitted with a cutting blade. He was cutting dunnage for a new washing machine.  The vessel rolled and the injured person lost control of the grinder, such that it caught his left arm causing a deep laceration from his left thumb to his elbow.  

He was given first aid and transferred to a nearby rig, and from there evacuated by helicopter to hospital ashore. On examination there were two major lacerated cuts with crush injury and damage to the muscles and tendons underneath and his left radial artery was completely cut. All this was repaired in surgery and the patient made a full recovery.  The injured person was an experienced hand who well understood how to safely operate portable hand tools of this sort.

What went wrong?

  • He was using a hand-operated power tool in rough weather;
  • He was using a wood cutting disc in an angle grinder;
  • He started work with no job hazard analysis nor a toolbox talk;
  • There was no guard on the grinder nor an automatic “dead man” switch cut-off;
  • The wood he was cutting was not supported nor held firm, but just placed on deck.  The injured person was using his left hand to hold the job still whilst applying the spinning blade with his right hand.

What were the causes?

Our member notes:

  • Improper handling of hand tools;
  • Human Element – poor perception of risk and inadequate supervision;
  • The sea conditions – not directly responsible but remaining part of the chain of causation of the event.

Some of the lessons learned:

  • Risk assessment and toolbox talk before starting work – no matter how routine the job;
  • Correct and proper management of hand tools
    • Use the right tool for the right job, use guards; use “dead man” switches.
  • When using powered tools, ensure the job is secured and cannot move before starting work;
  • Appropriate supervision of crew – in this case the chief engineer was unaware that the injured person was doing this work.

Members may wish to refer to

Safety Event

Published: 2 December 2021
Download: IMCA SF 33/21

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