Mars Report: Jury-rigged Extension Cord Proves Fatal
(Mars 201915) Electrical chords should never be improvised, repaired or otherwise jury-rigged. In this incident, a crew member lost his life after coming into contact with a live wire.
As edited from Dutch Safety Board official report published August 2017
The crew were carrying out maintenance work on the vessel while at anchor. One of the jobs was to paint the bilge water retention tank in the engine room. The tank was opened, ventilated and the atmosphere tested, in line with procedure. The bosun worked in the tank while the apprentice assisted outside the tank, mixing paint and passing down material. The bosun used torches and rechargeable lamps to provide light within the tank.
Work was stopped for coffee. When they returned to the tank, the bosun was carrying cable that had a lamp fixed to one end and a plug on the other. Tape was wrapped around both the lamp’s fitting end and the plug end. The bosun inserted the plug in a wall socket near the tank and took the lamp into the tank.
At one point the apprentice wanted to hand the bosun some more mixed paint, but the bosun did not reply to his questions. When the apprentice looked into the tank, illuminating it with a torch, he saw the bosun was lying unconscious at the bottom of the tank. The alarm was raised and a rescue was initiated with the help of breathing apparatus.
Resuscitation was started and continued while the victim was evacuated ashore, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The report found that the victim probably died as a result of electrocution from direct contact with the live wire as a result of the opening in the cable covering, although other causes could not be ruled out entirely.
- Inadequate supervision, as in this case, can have disastrous consequences.
- Under no circumstances should electrical cords be improvised, repaired or otherwise jury-rigged. Only undamaged, intact cords that are manufactured for such use should be employed. Better yet, use battery-powered lighting in confined spaces.
- Never underestimate the deadly power of ship’s main electrical power.