Vessel Type: Tanker
When carrying out a routine inspection of the engine room, the first engineer noticed steam leaking from the main steam dump valve gasket. After the vessel arrived at the next port anchorage, he instructed the second and third engineers to stop the boiler operation and drain all steam and water from the system and ensure that it was completely empty and de-pressurised. Later, the first engineer was informed that the system had been drained and isolated and he started to dismantle the valve to identify the cause of the leak. As he removed the valve bonnet, steam and hot water blew out from the joint at high pressure causing extensive burns across his face and body. The injured engineer was immediately transferred to the ship’s hospital and was later evacuated ashore by helicopter for urgent medical treatment due to the seriousness of his burns.
This type of burn injury is typical of the many reported to the UK P&I Club every year. The crew thought the pipeline had been properly drained, but pressurised steam and hot water remained in the system, either because the procedure for doing so was not correctly followed or because the section of pipeline being worked was not properly isolated from other parts of the steam system. The first engineer’s confidence that the system was safe may have caused him to be complacent when breaking open the valve joint and not taking care to slacken off the securing bolts to the minimum.