Compressed air bottles and compressed air lines in engine room are very critical and any maintenance on it should be planned and handled with extreme care. The same is applicable to the SCBA cylinders though they are small. Handling pressurized cylinders is no joke and the size of the cylinders doesn’t matter. What really matters is at what pressure the fluid is compressed and stored inside the cylinders.
IMCA reports that one of the air cylinder valves broke off, resulting in a sudden release of air pressure, while a third party vessel transported breathing air cylinders. There were no additional damages or injuries caused.
Why did this happen?
- Carriage was conducted without following local and international requirements for transportation of pressurized cylinders,
- The cylinders were not maintained and secured well, ensuring safe transportation,
- The necessary safety precautions which are mandatory for handling high pressure cylinders were not followed,
- The cylinders were transported in the horizontal position and they were not properly fixed or enclosed in a box or crate of substantial construction in order to avoid any impact or damage,
- There was no evidence that Management of Change (MoC) documentation and task risk assessment had been completed for this job,
- The pressurized cylinders were handled by untrained personnel who were not aware of what was inside the cylinders,
- The risks of handling pressurized cylinders were not properly assessed and not communicated to deck crew by vessel safety officers,
- There was a lack of control for transportation of pressurized cylinders and of crew deck activities
What was the corrective Action?
- All cylinders were stowed in a correct manner (vertical position with proper securing arrangement) and returned to shore for inspection
- Local safety professionals conducted a joint investigation with a third party UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) team, to agree finds and improvements
- Subsequently an appropriate storage basket was made available for future use, to prevent further damage and improve safety
- Transportation and handling of pressurized cylinders should be conducted with extra care
- All jobs involving risk should be performed only by trained/certified personnel
- An appropriate task risk assessment should be conducted
- Local and international regulations and requirements and company procedures, should always be followed when transporting pressurized cylinders offshore
- All pressurized cylinders should be transported in vertical “valve-up” position, secured to prevent falling or rolling
- Cylinders must be protected from impact from any other objects by the use of an appropriate box or crate of substantial construction
- All cylinders must be inspected before transporting
- Master and chief officer must be alert and stop work whenever necessary
Whilst this incident did not involve actual failure of a pillar valve, it highlights the underlying principles of appropriate care and maintenance of pressurized cylinders and associated equipments, whether used for diving or not.