Steam vented from the boiler and the condensate ran down the tube, exiting the pipe in to the sink and coming in to contact with the injured person’s right forearm. He immediately ran cold water over his arm and reported directly to the medic who carried out first aid.

The investigation noted the following:

  • The immediate response of applying cold water & seeking medical aid was correct & timely, preventing the injury from getting worse and avoiding potential subsequent infection;
  • Following the incident, the water boiler was immediately decommissioned until the correct means of venting steam/condensate had been established;
  • Vessel crew contacted the boiler manufacturer to seek guidance on correct solution. The manufacturer responded and supported installation of a permanent solution, to drain condensate directly into the main plumbing and away from the sink. This actively removed exposure to the hazard of hot steam/condensate.

Lessons learned

Be aware of temporary solutions – the fitting of the plastic pipe should only have been considered as an initial temporary solution and should have been followed up with subsequent action to make a safer, permanent solution;

Ensure control measures don’t actually increase risk – the plastic pipe was installed as a control measure to reduce the risk presented by steam venting directly from the boiler. Whilst this solution was implemented with the best intentions, it reduced one risk but created another – that of draining hot condensate into the sink;

Report hazards & unsafe conditions – this boiler was installed six months before but no-one had raised any safety observations or reported any concerns until someone got hurt;

STOP WORK – regardless of your rank or role, or where you work on the vessel, be aware of unsafe acts and/or working conditions and exercise the STOP WORK authority to ensure that they are corrected before anyone gets hurt.

Source: IMCA