The UK MAIB has published a safety bulletin highlighting a potentially serious hazard associated with condensed aerosol firefighting suppressant particles. The warning comes after a fatal accident on the fishing vessel ‘Resurgam’ in November 2019 which is currently being investigated by the Branch.
On 15 November 2019, the UK registered fishing vessel Resurgam was in Newlyn, England undergoing maintenance. An engineer and an apprentice from the owner’s shore-based support team were working on the main engine in the engine room. Also working there were two contractors installing a new FirePro condensed aerosol fire extinguishing system.
During the installation and without warning, the fire extinguishing system partially and inadvertently discharged, filling the engine room with a dense cloud of aerosol fire suppressing particles. Both installation contractors and the company’s engineer managed to evacuate, but the apprentice collapsed in the engine room. Local fire and rescue service later recovered the man, but he was not breathing and could not be resuscitated.
The exact causes and circumstances of this accident are still being investigated and the findings will be published by the MAIB in a full investigation report.
However, during the inadvertent discharge, it is evident that the apprentice inhaled a high concentration of the suppressant particles and this significantly contributed to the fatality.
FirePro’s Installation and User Manual and its product’s material safety data sheets had recognised the inadvertent discharge of the system, particularly during installation and maintenance, as a hazard.
However, the loss of life was not identified as a potential outcome; therefore, the risk associated with inhaling or ingesting a large volume of the suppressant particles was not fully appreciated or protected against.
Vessel owners, operators and those contracted to install FirePro and other similar condensed aerosol fire extinguishing systems should be fully aware of the potential risk to life from exposure to the aerosol particles.
Safety precautions should be in place to ensure that personnel are not exposed to this hazard:
– Prior to intentional discharge of a condensed aerosol system, there should be visible and audible alarms to alert personnel. Checks should also be made to ensure the protected compartment has been evacuated before the system is activated.
– When condensed aerosol fire extinguishing systems are being installed or maintained the system should be fully isolated to guard against inadvertent activation, non-essential personnel should be clear of the area and an enclosed space rescue plan should be in place.
Following investigation, UK MAIB recommended FirePro to issue a safety alert to the owner/operators of vessels fitted with its systems and its network of marine installation/maintenance engineers to highlight the circumstances of this accident and advising them of appropriate measures to take to reduce the risk of exposure to fire suppressant particles.
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