Mars 201918

Mars Report: Shocking End to a Crewman’s Contract

Working with a ship's electric power is always a dangerous undertaking. This crew member failed to double-check the tools he was working with and did not wear insulated gloves. 

An engine room crew member was investigating problems with the fuel oil circulating pump at the circuit breaker board. The pump’s breaker was opened and he proceeded to check the isolation status of the breaker terminals with a multimeter. As soon as he touched the terminals with multimeter leads, a huge spark emanated from the breaker/multimeter, with a loud explosive sound and black smoke.

The victim sustained burns on his face, neck and hands due to radiant heat. He was given first aid and signed off from the vessel for further medical attention ashore. 

Investigation Findings

  • The investigation found that he had attempted to check the voltage across breaker terminals with the multimeter selector knob at the Resistance (1 Ohm) setting instead of the Voltage (1000 VAC) setting. The electric charge found its shortest path (through the multimeter), which then exploded. 
  • It was also found that the victim had failed to use insulating gloves, which would have decreased the severity of the injury.

Lessons Learned

  • Approved insulated gloves should be used while working on electrical components.
  • It is always a good idea to cross-verify your tool and workplace before starting the job;
  • Is the guard in place?
  • Is the setting correct?
  • Is the electrical supply safe?
  • Is the lighting adequate?

Mars Reports

This is one of the March Mars Reports (number 201918) that are part of Report Number 317. A selection of this Report has also been published in SWZ|Maritime’s April issue.


Through the kind intermediary of The Nautical Institute we gratefully acknowledge sponsorship provided by:
American Bureau of Shipping, AR Brink & Associates, Britannia P&I Club, Cargill, Class NK, DNV, Gard, IHS Fairplay Safety at Sea International, International Institute of Marine Surveying, Lairdside Maritime Centre, London Offshore Consultants, MOL Tankship Management (Europe) Ltd, Noble Denton, North of England P&I Club, Sail Training International, Shipowners Club, The Marine Society and Sea Cadets, The Swedish Club, UK Hydrographic Office, West of England P&I Club

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Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.

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