The incident. The Chief Engineer and Second Engineer were attempting to start the lifeboat engine. This is a hand start engine with a starting handle. The Chief engineer was rotating the handle when it slipped off the starting shaft and hit him in the face. There were no visible injuries to be seen directly after the accident but soreness and bruising was felt later in the day.
Apparent cause of accident. On inspection of the starting handle after the accident, it is clear this was not the correct approved starting handle for this engine but appears to be an extremely poorly fabricated handle with origins unknown and totally unsuitable for the job.
When starting the engine the correct handle is manufactured in such a way that a clutch pin (pawl) engages with a keyway on the starting shaft. This stops the handle slipping off the shaft. The starting procedures and precautions as laid out in the manufacturer’s manual, and the Life Saving Appliances manual, clearly states to use only the correct starting handle , and not to use the handle if it is damaged in anyway. The handle was not inspected before use. The correct handle which was also in the boat was not used.
Actions taken to prevent re-occurrence. Incorrect handle removed, to be disposed of. All crew informed of this accident at a drill/meeting where safety precautions & procedures in starting the engine refreshed again. Copy of starting procedures placed inside the engine compartment. The accident also used to highlight importance of risk assessment at a shipboard toolbox talk, where all crew members were involved in formulating a risk assessment for this procedure.
This painful accident had the potential for more serious injury. The manager has taken learning from this specific incident to highlight the importance of assessing the risks of a task before carrying it out, including work which may at first sight appear to be routine.
This particular risk with a crank handle can also occur on some fishing vessels and leisure craft.