Fire extinguishers onboard a ship play a vital role when it comes to firefighting. In most cases, the fire extinguishers are kept rested against a wall or a bulkhead with least attention being paid to it. In one such case, there was an accident where the fire extinguisher took the life of a crew who operated it.
The fatality happened onboard a tanker while there was a demonstration on proper usage of the fire extinguisher.
During the weekly safety drill, an able-bodied seaman was explaining the safe handling and positioning of a fire extinguisher which suddenly exploded. The exploded parts bulleted through causing a serious injury and subsequent fatality.
Though the fire extinguishers have been serviced annually and as per maintenance schedules, the root cause of the accident was corrosion of the extinguisher body under the rubber/steel protective foot. Water had entered the rubber/steel lining, causing serious corrosion.
An investigation was carried out and found that the manufacturer has distributed a warning to all the users of this type of fire extinguisher stating that the annual inspection should include the visual inspection of the bottom of the cylinder after the rubber foot or the steel protective foot has been removed.
Thus, it is recommended that a dedicated officer on board carries out a religious inspection in compliance to the SMS or maker’s instructions or ideally whichever is stringent in inspection rules.