Safety In Maintaining Or Replacing The Belts And Braces


Two engineers on board a moored cargo vessel were performing routine planned maintenance to a deck air compressor (Figure 1).

The engineers met in the machinery control room, prepared a risk assessment for the work, and isolated the power to the compressor in line with the company’s lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) procedures, According to MAIB Safety Digest.

Trapping hand

After completing the maintenance, but before replacing the v-belt guards, the engineers switched the power back on to test the compressor. 

One of the engineers was making some final adjustments to the compressor’s drive belt when the compressor automatically started, trapping his hand between the pulley and the belt and severing part of his index finger (Figure 2).

Internal investigation

After hospital treatment, the engineer returned to the vessel. The company conducted an internal investigation and issued a safety bulletin that reminded ship’s staff of its LOTO procedures and the importance of risk assessments.

Lessons learned

  1. Hazard

Risk assessments are best conducted on site so that all potential hazards, such as automatic starting of equipment, can be identified.

The benefits of reviewing generic risk assessments and undertaking dynamic risk assessments cannot be underestimated.

  1. Risk

If it is necessary to test or adjust equipment without safety guards in place, as in this case, the risks associated with the task should be identified and mitigated in the risk assessment. 

  1. Procedure

LOTO procedures must remain in place until all maintenance tasks are completed. If adjustments are required to systems after a test run, then a second LOTO procedure should be instigated

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Source: MAIB