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A crew member who jumped into the sea after being engulfed in flames probably reduced the severity of his burn injuries according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report released today.

The ATSB report into the incident states that, at about 0840 on 21 April 2005, a crew member on board the Hong Kong bulk carrier Hui Shun Hai was working on a hydraulic oil pipeline on the main deck of the ship when the line parted, allowing pressurised hydraulic oil to escape. The oil ignited, and exploded, when it came into contact with the oxygen-acetylene flame the crew member was using.

The ship was proceeding to the Western Australian port of Albany when the incident occurred.

Immediately following the incident, the ship's master turned the vessel around and launched a lifeboat to recover the man from the sea. When he was returned on board the vessel, the extent of his burns were apparent and the master requested a medical evacuation by helicopter. A RAAF helicopter, launched from Learmonth, winched the crew member off the vessel about seven hours after he was burnt. He was flown to Carnarvon and then onto Perth when the full extent of his burns were known.

The report concludes that the crew carrying out the replacement of the section of hydraulic pipeline did not realise that the half open hatch cover caused the pipe to be pressurised. Additionally, the shipboard operating procedures failed to provide guidance in identifying the potential hazard of pressurised hydraulic lines.

The report recommends that ship's managers and masters should review their safety management systems and the associated permit to work arrangements, to ensure that hydraulic systems are correctly isolated and relieved of pressure before work on the system has commenced.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSB's internet site at www.atsb.gov.au, or obtained from the ATSB by telephoning (02) 6274 6130 or 1800 020 616.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
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Last update 01 April 2011