Mishandled Flammable Materials Cause Severe Burns!


The UK & PI CLUB has given a brief report titled “Risk Force: Burns” concerning the recurring fire accidents that had taken place in ships due to various reasons. The report emphasizes that adequate measures should be taken to reduce the risk of seafarers suffering from burns.

Galley cleaning

The mess man was cleaning in the galley while the vessel was experiencing heavy weather.

During an alteration of course, the vessel rolled heavily causing a large electric kettle to topple from a nearby work top, spilling boiling water over the mess man’s lower legs and hands resulting in serious scalding injury.

Precautions recommended

Catering personnel should wear appropriate work wear that does not leave the skin overly exposed. Suitable safety footwear should be worn with open top type sandals being strictly prohibited.

When heavy weather is expected, appropriate precautions should be made to ensure hot pots and pans are properly secured against movement and not over-filled.

This would include the fitting of safety bars around galley cooking ranges. In very heavy weather, consideration should be given to limiting cooking activities.

Contact with heated surfaces

This is a very common cause of personal injury, particularly in machinery spaces and in the galley. Wherever possible, exposed hot surfaces should be effectively insulated and shielded to reduce the risk of direct contact.

This will include machinery casings, steam and hot oil system pipelines and valves, exhaust manifolds and uptakes. Otherwise crew members should be fully alert to components that may be hot and use made of warning notices and signage.

Crew serving on tankers must also be aware that cargo lines and tank heating systems may also attain high temperatures. In the case of asphalt tankers where the cargo is typically carried at up to 160°C, the cargo system pipelines and valves require
to be fully insulated.

Galley crew must take care when handling hot cooking pots, baking trays and other utensils as well as when attending to hot plates and ovens. Good quality oven gloves should be available and worn.

Exposure to burning solids, liquid or gas

Matters relating to the cause and effect of major shipboard explosions or fire casualties fall outside the scope of this Risk Focus.

Nevertheless, burn injuries resulting from mishandling of flammable materials or improper use of burning machinery and equipment do often occur. Inhalation of smoke and hot gases associated with burning materials may also result in injury to airways and lungs.

Whatever the activity, it is essential that fire prevention training and precautions as required by the vessel Safety Management System are fully observed at all times, no matter how apparently minor the job.

Hot work should always be subject to a risk assessment and the issuance of a Permit to Work, particularly when performed outside the engine room workshop.

  • Crew involved in hot work must use and wear appropriate personal protective equipment, which may include heat resistant gloves, gauntlets, aprons, safety boots and eye protection.
  • Work wear should preferably be of natural fibre as some synthetic fibre garments are more flammable and can melt on to the skin at high temperature.

Oxy-acetylene burns

Numerous accidents occur due to incorrect use and maintenance of oxy-acetylene type burning gear.

Flame cutting and welding should only be performed by persons properly trained and familiarised with the equipment on board, the care and maintenance of which should be incorporated into the vessel planned maintenance system.

Appropriate hot work precautions must never be neglected, including ensuring that the object being worked on is clear of and does not contain flammable materials, liquids or vapours.

It should also be borne in mind that cutting gear such as rotary disc cutters and grinders will generate a lot heat and sparks during use which may also be a potential source of ignition.

Fatalities have resulted from crew using this equipment to cut open empty oil or chemical drums whereby the vaporised oil/air mixture in the drum was ignited by heat from the cutting operation, causing the drum to explode.

Work associated with burning machinery such as oil fired boilers and incinerators must be properly supervised and manufacturer’s instructions for operation, inspection and maintenance strictly observed.

Boiler blow back incidents

Boiler blow back incidents sometimes occur due to the failure to observe correct flame failure re-start procedures. The neglect to properly purge the furnace with air before re-lighting the boiler may ignite residual fuel vapour and cause a dangerous explosion.

In such an event, any crew working at or near the boiler firing unit are at high risk of very serious impact and burn injuries.

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Source: UK P&I Club


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