Best Practice: Portable Power Tools

  • Date: 11/07/2016
  • Author: Chris Roberts

The UK P&I Club’s Risk Assessors often find during routine Risk Assessments of entered ships, that the safe use of portable power tools is not adhered to on board, more cases are seen in the Deck department than the Engine Department, but cases are found in both.

Claims for eye, chest, and hand injuries are generated from the incorrect usage of power tools on ships.  Some of these injuries have been fatal and all of these injuries are avoidable if proper precautions are taken on board during routine maintenance operations involving power tools.

Generally the tools referred to are pneumatic scaling equipment such as needle scalers, cup wire brushes and angle grinders. Also electric driven angle grinders of various sizes are in use on board.

General faults are the removal of safety sleeves from needle scalers, of safety guards from all other tools, or the modification of the safety guard on any tool such that it is ineffective.  Also the wiring or taping and/or by-passing by any means of the safety cut-out devices on all the tools mentioned.

On electric tools poor general maintenance, including wiring faults, is also commonly found.

UK Club Risk Assessors advise that:

  1. All tools should be inspected and checked on a daily basis before use for safety reasons and that the safety guards should never be modified or removed from any tool, nor the safety sleeve from needle scaling equipment. 
  2. Safety cut-out devices should be checked and ensured operational prior to each use of the tool concerned and wiring of electrical tools should also be tested and visually inspected to ensure safe integrity before any tool is used.
  3. Users should be issued with and wear the appropriate face shields and eye protection as well as safety gloves of the correct type prior to using any tool on board.
  4. Training of all personnel in the safe use of tools and pre work risk assessment/safety meetings for all personnel are very important and should be undertaken daily to ensure that controls are not by-passed and the team are safe.
  5. During use of tools no person uninvolved should be allowed to enter the area of operations and if there is more than one operator then there should also be a wide margin of separation between workers to stop an overlap where one worker may injure another inadvertently during operations.

The loss prevention department aims to reduce Members’ exposure to claims by raising awareness of risk. Co-ordinated by the Loss Prevention team is a dedicated team of Risk Assessors.

The Risk Assessors supervise and co-ordinate the activities of the five ship inspectors and control the condition surveys which are carried out (by independent surveyors) under the Club’s Rules. The Risk Assessors travel worldwide in order to carry out their tasks. Permanent bases are maintained in Rotterdam, Greece and Singapore. All the Ship Inspectors are qualified QA Lead Assessors and are familiar with the requirements of the ISM Code.  For more information on our Loss prevention team please contact

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