Lessons learned: Crewmember injured by a battery explosion onboard vessel deck

The incident

A battery blew up, causing the lid of the battery housing to shoot upwards and hit one of the persons working on it, causing significant facial injuries.

Specifically, the incident occurred when a diver and dive technician were on deck checking the condition of the battery packs of portable subsea MPI (magnetic particle inspection) equipment.

As explained, after the previous dive the MPI unit in use had been recovered, taken on deck to check the condition of the battery inside its housing. The diver and dive tech were checking the battery voltage with a multi-meter via the waterproof bulkhead fitting.

They had found that the battery in use was slightly low and needed to be charged. A second battery that had been charged the day before was brought by the dive tech and placed on deck. Whilst checking this second battery and its function, an explosion occurred.

…IMCA noted.

The force from the explosion caused the lid of the battery housing to shoot upwards as the base of thehousing shattered. The lid hit one of the workers who suffered a laceration to his face and hands, and later, X-rays revealed a fracture to his lower jaw.

The diving supervisor and dive tech, who were both in proximity overseeing the work, were unharmed and were able to raise the alarm and administer first aid.

Within minutes later, the injured person was transferred ashore to a hospital for further treatment.

In light of the above incident, IMCA noted that:

Not following the manufacturer’s recommendations in regards to battery ‘off-gassing’ time prior to use. This lack of adequate venting and purging of the battery gases allowed an explosive atmosphere to build up.

Lessons learned:

  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendations with specific requirements to times for venting or off gassing of
  • Ensure any instructions for equipment are easy to understand. If translation is needed, ensure that all personnel that will be using the equipment understand it fully.
  • Ensure team have been given instructions and understand the use and limitations of the equipment.
  • Stop the job! Encourage personnel to be assertive in identifying and reporting operational discrepancies
    promptly to avoid inappropriate or unsafe conditions becoming the ‘norm’.
  • Correct PPE: Wearing the correct PPE in this incident most likely prevented further or worse injury.
  • Good emergency response plan (ERP): The immediate response, subsequent medevac and further hospital
    treatment, followed by good immediate after care, shows the importance of a well-reviewed and drilled ERP.

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