Real Life Incident: Hit Bitumen Burn

Routine inspection and cleaning maintenance was to be undertaken on a vessel’s fuel pump strainer. In preparation for this task, the secondary heating unit (SHU) had been started the day before to melt the bitumen inside the strainer. Two engine crew were assigned the job, and the SHU was stopped before they began work on the pump strainer.

To begin, one crewmember used a spanner to loosen the vent nut on the strainer. As the nut came loose, hot liquid bitumen was ejected from the vent. The bitumen hit the crewman’s right hand causing burns; the crewmember was not wearing work gloves. He was immediately brought to the accommodation and given first aid. After consulting the company doctor, he was started on a course of antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

Hit Bitumen Burn
Credits: The Nautical Institute

Lessons learned

Wearing proper PPE is a minimum precaution in any work space.

Over and above wearing proper PPE, risk assessments (what could happen?), even if ever so cursory, should be done to prior to executing a task. In this instance, given the preheating of the bitumen, it would seem common sense to assume that hot bitumen would excrete from the loosened vent nut.

Reference: The Nautical Institute

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