Fatal Electrocution Accident While Cleaning Cargo Hold

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Credits: UK MAIB

Hong Kong Merchant Shipping has issued an Information Note to draw lessons learned from an incident where a fatal electrocution accident happened on board a Hong Kong registered bulk carrier during cargo hold cleaning, off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico.

Three deck crew members, including the Able Seaman (AB), entered the No.1 cargo hold (the hold) to clean the tank top. As it was getting dark, a portable cargo hold light (the light) was temporarily provided to the crew in the hold for illumination. When the AB attempted to move the light by hand to illuminate the starboard bilge well of the hold and check the cleanliness there, he suddenly collapsed on the tank top due to an electric shock.

The crew of the vessel organised themselves immediately and applied first aid to the AB. The vessel was steered back to the designated rendezvous position to seek urgent shore medical treatment. Unfortunately, the AB was declared dead later by the shore doctor.

What went wrong

The investigation identified that the contributory factors leading to the incident were that the crew failed to follow the requirements of the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seafarers to use a portable lamp with low voltage or take suitable precautions to avoid electric shock in damp or humid conditions.

Furthermore, they failed to follow the requirements of the Code and the shipboard Safety Management System (SMS) to hold a toolbox meeting properly, including a risk assessment before cargo holds cleaning.

Finally, they lacked safety awareness on prevention of electric shock when using a portable cargo hold light and the shipboard SMS failed to identify using electrical equipment as one of the main risks onboard the vessel when working in cargo holds.

Lessons Learnt

In order to avoid recurrence of similar accidents during operations in the future, the ship management company, all masters, officers, and crew members should note:

  • Strictly follow the relevant requirements of the Code to use a portable lamp with low voltage or take suitable precautions to avoid electric shock in damp or humid conditions.
  • Strictly follow the requirements of the Code and the shipboard SMS to convene a toolbox meeting properly, including a risk assessment before the cargo hold cleaning.
  • Enhance safety awareness of the crew on prevention of electric shock when using a portable cargo hold light.
  • Ensure the crew strictly follow the safety requirements when working in cargo holds; and
  • Ensure shipboard SMS to identify the risk of using electrical equipment when working in cargo holds as one of the main risks onboard.

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Source: Hong Kong Merchant Shipping