Engine Room Accidents
Even with all the safety measures followed, and precautions taken, ship engine rooms are dangerous places. There are many systems working under high temperatures and pressures. Any accident has the potential to cause major property damage and even death. The types of incidents that occur in such hostile environments include:
- Crankcase explosions: One of the most dangerous risks, these are caused by reduced oil particle sizes, air, and a hot spot. These three elements are needed, but a risky job can suddenly become deadly if they come together.
- Boiler explosions: Mistakes when operating boilers, internal fuel leakage, misfires, overheating, and exhaust gas fires can cause high-pressure equipment to ignite.
- Air compressor explosions: An airline explosion can occur during maintenance when workers shut off the discharge valve. The intent is to minimize air leakage; the result, if the valve fails, is an over-pressure situation that causes the part to explode.
- Generator over-speed: A generator running at too high RPMs can cause internal parts to fail. Crank shafts, rods, and nuts and bolts can detach and be ejected at high speed, causing severe injuries.
- Dangers from high-pressure parts: Burst fuel lines can injure and severely burn employees, while steam leaks from high-pressure sources can as well, and instantly kill workers. Steam joints can fail, and poorly isolated mounting valves and cracks/material failures can cause steam lines to burst. Hydraulic accidents can expose crews to high-pressure fluids and parts.
- Shocks: Various electrical hazards exist in engine rooms. Components must be properly isolated before starting maintenance, and starting any equipment during maintenance can lead to a nasty jolt.
- CO2 release: Ship engine rooms store carbon dioxide in case of a fire. It’s released only after everyone leaves the room, but if done so accidentally, can kill all crew members still there – instantly.
Aside from equipment, staircases present a hazard in engine rooms. These are often used many times during a work shift, and slippery stairs or not having hands free to hold a railing can lead to major accidents. Bruising and head injuries can easily occur. Workers should make a point to remember to tighten helmet belts and be cautious when carrying equipment, making sure a hand is free to hold onto a railing.
Engine Rooms Are Notorious for Fires
A study by the International Maritime Organization found that up to 50 percent of merchant ship fires come from the engine room. Of those, approximately 60 percent are caused by pressurized oil leaks. Maintenance is therefore essential to ensure the engine room is clean and control equipment is properly installed and operated. Accidents not only lead to major damage and deaths; ship owners also incur the costs of salvage, towage, repairs, and sometimes extensive downtime.
In addition to reducing the threats and providing strict safety standards, maritime laws provide a means for injured individuals to receive compensation. This is particularly the case when negligence is to blame. There are legal requirements for training related to the job being done, and for workers to have time off between shifts, as fatigue can lead to mistakes and accidents.