In its latest Mars Report, The Nautical Institute describes how a crew member sustained injuries after working with acetone. The seafarer stated he had not been shown the Material Safety Data Sheet and was unaware of the risks.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

In drydock, a crew member was tasked with painting cargo tanks as part of the regular maintenance. He was briefed on the work to be done and, according to the company, about the risks of skin contact with acetone, which was due to be used in the process. However, the crew member stated he had not been shown the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the paint and other products to be used (that is, acetone), nor had these been discussed with him before the start of the job.

The spot painting in the tanks took the crew member an entire week; initially preparing the surface and then painting it. He used the prescribed safety gloves and a boiler suit, but was not adequately protected at the wrists so acetone eventually came into contact with the skin causing irritation.

A few days after the drydock the vessel sailed. During the transit, the crew member informed the master that there were signs of irritation on his wrists. The master immediately notified the company of the event and the victim was advised to apply ointment on his wrists and keep them bandaged during the day. Once in port the victim was sent ashore for further medical examinations as his wrists still showed signs of irritation.

Investigation findings

Although the company investigation found “improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)” as the direct cause of the injury (lack of adequate wrist protection, which allowed contact with the acetone and consequent skin irritation), it is worth noting that the victim worked an entire week in this condition. Under normal conditions of supervision the PPE slip should have been corrected within the first few hours if not minutes of starting the job.

Also read: Nautical Institute: Always use PPE when working with grinding wheels and discs

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Employers are responsible for adequately informing employees of the risks of particular substances, but employees are equally responsible to inquire and comply.
  • Easy and ready access to MSDS information as well as employee requests to review this information is a sign of a strong safety culture.
  • Inadequate supervision is a huge contributing factor in many accidents. Are your crew briefings and supervision up to scratch?

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202147, that are part of Report Number 347. A selection of this Report will also be published in SWZ|Maritime’s October 2021 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.