Safety measures are not an exercise of checking boxes, they need to be followed. The Nautical Institute gives this warning in its latest Mars Report, in which four crew members suffered burns while performing maintenance work.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars (Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme) Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. This is one of these reports.

Crew member suffers burns

A tanker was at anchor waiting for a berth. During the anchor period routine maintenance was to be done on the auxiliary boiler fuel oil pump. According to the vessel’s records, a job hazard analysis had been carried out and a cold work permit and a pressure pipeline work permit had been issued before the work began. The senior person of the group undertook the work while the three junior members of the team watched.

The senior engine room crew member switched the pump to manual control and put it in the stop position. He isolated the pump from the system by closing the inlet and outlet valves. He then proceeded to loosen the bolts of the filter cover. Suddenly hot fuel and gases spewed out of the loosened filter cover. All four crew were struck by hot fuel on their faces, necks and hands. The victims were given first aid and quickly disembarked to a shore hospital.

While two of the victims were only slightly injured and returned to light duty on the vessel soon after the accident, the two other victims suffered more severe burns. They required eleven days of hospitalisation before being repatriated.

Also read: Crew member without PPE suffers hot sludge burns

Investigation findings

The accident investigation revealed that the crew member had loosened the filter cover without first releasing the system pressure from the vent cock. The vessel’s “Permit to Work on Pressurised Systems” included a check box for pressure release, and the box had been ticked, but the check had not in actual fact been done.

Also read: Junior engineer suffers severe burns in boiler accident

Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Avoid the “checklist mentality”. The Safety Management System (SMS) tools are there for your benefit; use them.
  • A supervisor cannot supervise if they are doing the work themselves.

Also read: No lockout/tagout results in burns for engine room crew member

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202416, that are part of Report Number 377. A selection of the Mars Reports are also published in the SWZ|Maritime magazine. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published (in full) 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.