2006X03 ATSB Official report - Explosion injures welder

29 Dec 2006 MARS


A crew member who jumped into the sea after being engulfed in flames probably reduced the severity of his burn injuries according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report. The ATSB report into the incident states that, at about 0840 on 21 April 2005, a crew member on board the Hong Kong bulk carrier Hui Shun Hai was working on a hydraulic oil pipeline on the main deck of the ship when the line parted, allowing pressurised hydraulic oil to escape. The oil ignited, and exploded, when it came into contact with the oxygen-acetylene flame the crew member was using.

In order to access the after flange on the section of pipe which was to be replaced, the welder had to lie on the deck, on his left side, and angle the oxygen-acetylene cutting head up behind another hydraulic pipe (see Figure 1). At 0842, while the welder was in the process of cutting off the third bolt joining the flanges, they separated and hydraulic oil in the pipe, under high pressure, escaped. This oil ignited when it came into contact with the oxygenacetylene flame. A fireball about seven m in diameter enveloped the welder and the oxygenacetylene bottles nearby. The welder, suffering burns to his face and body, jumped up from his position on the deck, ran to the ship’s starboard bulwark, about seven m away, and jumped into the sea.

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Immediately following the incident, the ship’s master turned the vessel around and launched a lifeboat to recover the man from the sea. When he was returned on board the vessel, the extent of his burns were apparent and the master requested a medical evacuation by helicopter. A RAAF helicopter, launched from Learmonth, winched the crew member off the vessel about seven hours after he was burnt. He was flown to Carnarvon and then on to Perth when the full extent of his burns were known.

The report concludes that the crew carrying out the replacement of the section of hydraulic pipeline did not realise that the half open hatch cover caused the pipe to be pressurised. Additionally, the shipboard operating procedures failed to provide guidance in identifying the potential hazard of pressurised hydraulic lines

The report recommends that ships’ managers and masters should review their safety management systems and the associated permit to work arrangements, to ensure that hydraulic systems are correctly isolated and relieved of pressure before work on the system has commenced.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSB HERE.