202147 MSDS: read it and apply it to protect yourself

31 Aug 2021 MARS 2021

In drydock, a crewmember was tasked with painting cargo tanks as part of the regular maintenance. He was briefed on the work to be done and, according to the company, about the risks of skin contact with acetone, which was due to be used in the process. However, the crewmember stated he had not been shown the Material Safety Data 
Sheet (MSDS) for the paint and other products to be used (i.e. acetone), nor had these been discussed with him before the start of the job. 

The spot painting in the tanks took the crewmember an entire week; initially preparing the surface and then painting it. He used the prescribed safety gloves and a boiler suit, but was not adequately protected at the wrists so acetone eventually came into contact with the skin causing irritation.

A few days after the drydock the vessel sailed. During the transit the crewmember informed the Master that there were signs of irritation on his wrists. The Master immediately notified the company of the event and the victim was advised to apply ointment on his wrists and keep them bandaged during the day. Once in port the victim was sent ashore for further medical examinations as his wrists still showed signs of irritation.

Although the company investigation found ‘improper use of PPE’ as the direct cause of the injury (lack of adequate wrist protection which allowed contact with the acetone and consequent skin irritation), it is worth noting that the victim worked an entire week in this condition. Under normal conditions of supervision the PPE slip should have been 
corrected within the first few hours if not minutes of starting the job.

Lesson learned

  • Employers are responsible for adequately informing employees of the risks of particular substances, but employees are equally responsible to inquire and comply. 
  • Easy and ready access to MSDS information as well as employee requests to review this information is a sign of a strong safety culture.
  • Inadequate supervision is a huge contributing factor in many accidents. Are your crew briefings and supervision up to scratch?