Sep 272007

Australia’s Transport Safety Board has issued its final report on the severe burning of a seafarer aboard the MSC Sonia when steam was vented while he was in the funnel painting the main engine exhaust pipes. The steam badly scalded the seafarer and was forceful enough to blow the bosun off his feet.

Key points are that the seafarer and the bosun who was with him were not aware of the hazards, indeed, no-one seemed to know what the steam vent was for; at the time of the incident a surveyor, the chief engineer and others were in the engine room for the vessel’s class survey but did not know the seafarer and bosun were working on the funnel; senior deck and engineering officers did not have adequate knowledge of what the various departments were doing or planning; there was no risk/hazard survey of the two tasks (the survey and painting the funnel); the steam vent itself was positioned in such a way that anyone near the funnel was at risk when it exhausted.

Poor communications and poor safety awareness played major roles in the incident.

Although ASTB doesn’t directly address the issue, it does sound as if certain working procedures were not followed. The engine room should have been notified and signs posted on critical machinery, in this case the boiler, that men were working.

One practical lesson is, of course, that if you see a pipe pointing in your direction, it’s probably a good idea to find out what it is.

The ATSB’s official notice says “The ATSB has found that a lack of communication, hazard awareness and job safety analysis led to a seaman on board the Panamanian registered container ship MSC Sonia being severely burned by steam.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation also found that the placement
of the boiler safety valve vent pipe, and the direction in which it exhausted, meant that any personnel on the funnel casing top platform were vulnerable when a boiler safety valve operated.

At about 0900 on 10 April 2007, a surveyor arrived on board MSC Sonia to carry out a
scheduled boiler survey while the ship was alongside Swanson Dock, Melbourne.
The ship’s chief engineer and the surveyor went to the engine room and, after visually inspecting the outside of the boiler; they tested the safety cut-out devices. The surveyor then asked for the operation of the safety valves to be tested. The turbo-alternator was shut down to reduce the steam demand and the boiler’s two burners were ?red manually. The steam pressure started to rise and, at about 0945, when the boiler pressure reached 11 bar, the safety valves operated.
The ship’s boatswain and the ordinary seaman had spent all morning on the top platform
of the funnel casing painting the main engine exhaust pipes. At about 0945, steam
unexpectedly exhausted from the nearby boiler safety valve vent pipe, directly onto the ordinary seaman.

The ordinary seaman was severely burned by the steam. He was assisted down the funnel
casing ladder and onto the bridge deck. While he lay on the deck, the crew used a hose to shower him with water to cool his burns.

At 1015, an ambulance team arrived on board the ship and, by about 1100, the ordinary
seaman had been landed ashore, placed in the waiting ambulance and taken to hospital.
The ATSB is pleased to report safety action already taken and has issued one safety
recommendation and two safety advisory notices with the aim of preventing similar

For the report and recommendations, right click and download here

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