Fugro Oceanor has issued a safety alert warning of the dangers of hydrogen-build up inside Oceanor Wavescan buoys following and explosion and fatality off the coast of Malaysia. The buoy exploded while a member of Fugro’s staff was attempting to open it with an angle grinder.
The buoy in question was deployed in August 2010, and visited for cleaning in November 2010. It was reported that the buoy was soiled with bird droppings. At some point after this, the maintenance program for the buoy was suspended. The program was re-established in 2012, and the accident took place on the initial maintenance cruise.
After retrieval onto the service vessel, the buoy was cleaned, and the task of opening the instrument compartment started. This compartment also holds the lead-acid battery packs of the buoy. Access to the instruments is gained by removing a circular lid which is secured by 16 bolts. The removal of the bolts had been completed, except for the last bolt which proved to be seized. The decision was made to free this bolt using an angle grinder. Only moments after applying the grinder, an explosion took place which resulted in the lid blowing open and the instrument modules and their mounting plate being projected outwards with great force. These items struck the Fugro employee, thus causing the fatal injuries.