Published: August 1, 2018

The Club has recently seen a number of crew injuries which were caused while cleaning, repairing or operating machinery with high pressure components:

Example 1

A fourth engineer suffered burns to his right hand and forearm while changing the gasket of the waste oil tank steam heating line. The engineer had closed the inlet and outlet valves before opening the flange but he failed to drain the hot water which proceeded to splash on his hands and face. In this case the engineer was wearing protective gloves. However, the heat and the quantity of the water soaked through the protective layer of the gloves and led to the burns.

Example 2

A carpenter sustained deep lacerations to his finger when he attempted to clean the nozzle of a high-pressure washer with his finger and inadvertently touched the washer trigger at the same time. The crew member was wearing full safety equipment at the time of the incident but the pressure of the water was sufficient enough to cause the injury.

Example 3

An engine cadet suffered deep cuts to his forehead while carrying out routine maintenance on the ship’s main engine turbocharger. The cover flew off the grit washing container due a build-up of pressure within the unit’s valves, which were shown to be fully choked with grit and moisture. As there was no pressure gauge on the container, the attending crew were unable to ascertain whether the unit had been depressurised until the cover flew off. The container was also not in the vertical position and so the trajectory of the cover was at an angle as it flew off.

Luckily the cadet was wearing his helmet at the time otherwise the incident could have proved to be fatal.

A thorough risk assessment should be carried out by crew undertaking tasks utilising high-pressure equipment, or during the repair / cleaning of high-pressured machinery, to ascertain what safety equipment is required for each individual task. In example 3, the risk assessment should include the following :

  • Stop!
  • Think – what could go wrong?
  • Ensure everyone participating or observing is aware of the job tasks and the potential risks
  • Could container be under pressure?
  • If so, then remove with upmost care and to one side of the cap
  • Ensure nobody in the immediate vicinity – look behind you!

The above examples also demonstrate the importance of ensuring appropriate safety equipment is worn at all times when operating, or working on, high-pressure equipment.

The dangers may not always be immediately evident but the risk of injury is substantial and the consequences can prove fatal. It is therefore of vital importance that a thorough risk assessment is carried out, safety procedures are strictly adhered to and vigilance is demonstrated by the crew at all times.


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