Vessel Type: Tanker
Whilst the vessel was at anchor waiting to berth, one of the engine room fitters was instructed by the Chief Engineer to fabricate a set of locking pins for the anchor cable stoppers. It was planned that the work would take place in the engine room workshop and involve the use of an angle grinder for which the fitter had the choice of an electrical or pneumatically powered tool. The fitter was provided with and wore appropriate personal protective equipment, including a full face visor. He started the job using an electric angle grinder with a maximum disc size of 180 mm but then switched to using a pneumatic angle grinder with a maximum disc size of 100 mm. He then installed a 160 mm disc to the grinder which required the removal of the safety guard from the tool. During continued use of the grinder, the disc shattered into three pieces, one of which penetrated the fitter’s face visor and seriously injured his right eye. First aid was given on board and prompt arrangements made to transfer the casualty ashore for hospitalisation.
It is not known why the fitter switched from using the electrical grinder, which could have accommodated the 160 mm disc, to using the pneumatic tool. Fitting cutting/grinding discs in excess of the designed size for the tool is a very dangerous practice and increases the risk of disc failure. Furthermore, the removal of tool safety guards in any circumstances exposes the operator to serious injury, either by flying work debris, breakage of the disc and additional exposure of body parts to the high speed rotating disc. The Club’s Risk Assessors find that a large proportion of vessels visited have angle grinders in deck and engine room workshops with the safety guards missing.
- Ship managers and officers should implement a zero tolerance policy towards the misuse and abuse of powered tools, including the removal of safety guards and devices
- Power tool manufacturer’s instructions for use and safety precautions should be readily available to crew and strictly observed
- The care, maintenance and checking of portable power tools should be included in the vessel planned maintenance system
- Crew should be trained in the proper use of power tools and the serious consequences of non-compliance with safety precautions
- Remember: angle grinders in the wrong hands are lethal weapons!