Wore inappropriate gloves

The on-board bilge tank was due for a cleaning in accordance with established procedures. The crew member in charge of the operation was dressed in protective overalls suitable for chemicals, as well as boots, an O2 meter and gloves. The procedure did however not specify which gloves to wear.

Hence, the crew member put on gloves that was not designed for chemical purposes. The incident report describes a situation where the cleanser ran over the gloves and onto the skin between the suit and the cuff on the glove. After a little while, the crew member felt his skin becoming irritated. Upon removing the gloves, it was discovered he had burn-injuries on both hands. The crew member was hospitalised.

How to prevent similar incidents?

When handling soaps and detergents, chemically resistant gloves should always be worn. The gloves should have an elongated, welded cuff to ensure the chemicals wont flow backwards into the glove. As important as wearing the correct gear, is the gears availability to the crew. Procedures should exhibit clearly which equipment to use, including pictures, and where to find it. Familiarisation rounds when on-boarding new crew should include a demonstration of what to wear in different circumstances.

Soap in the eye

In another cleaning related incident, a crewmember received a spray of soap to his face and eye. After a medical consultation, the doctor concluded that the eye was uninjured, and the crew member could return to work.

The crew member wore the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the operation. The incident occurred when the not fully depressurized hose was disconnected from the foam nozzle. Upon disconnecting, a squirt of soapy water hit the crew member in the eye. As the crew member was in the process of tidying away the equipment, he had considered it safe to remove his safety glasses.

In a similar, but unrelated incident, the NMA received a casualty report where an able seaman (AB) got soap in his eyes when using the wrong type of glasses. The NMA recommend using tight-fitting goggles when handling chemicals, or a wrap-around plastic visor preventing substances from reaching the eyes. In this particular case, the AB experienced a build-up of dew/fog on the inside of his goggles, so he decided to swap them with glasses.

How to prevent similar incidents?

The lessons learned from these incidents is that PPE should be worn throughout the operation when handling chemicals, up until and including stowing away the equipment. This will minimize the likelihood of chemicals reaching the face and eyes in particular. At the same time, the PPE should be of an ergonomic design. Safety goggles with ventilation slits or anti-fog properties should be considered.

Drank paint thinner from unmarked bottle

Recently, a crew member had a drink from a bottle containing paint thinner. He mistook the bottle with his own water bottle, as it was unmarked and did not bear the hallmarks of a bottle containing chemicals. The on-board response team promptly consulted the product data sheet and decided that he should be evacuated.

Exposure to paint thinners or other solvents could have grave and long-term consequences. It is not uncommon to hear about exposure to solvents through inhalation as something to be cautious of. Less common is actual consumption. This can undoubtedly have lethal outcomes, especially if it reaches the airways or the mucous membrane in the mouth, throat, and gut.

Having been assessed by medical professionals on shore, the crew member was returned to the vessel without any indications of permanent injuries. In the aftermath, the vessel and vessel owner have implemented measures to ensure that chemicals cannot be easily mistaken for water or other safe liquids.

How to prevent similar incidents?

Chemicals need to be clearly marked to avoid confusion. When working in the paint shop on board, for instance, make sure that leftover chemicals is stored in a container that does not resemble a soda bottle or similar. Furthermore, chemicals should be kept in a determined location at alle times, and not be moved around the vessel without swiftly putting it back in place.