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The ATSB has found that a high pressure oxygen system fire on board the roll-on/roll-off cargo ship Searoad Mersey, on 22 September 2006, occurred when an unsuitable replacement hose fitted to the system ignited. The ship's trainee engineer was hit in the head by the gas pressure regulator and received burns to his face, head and arms.

At about 1540 on 22 September 2006, the trainee engineer was preparing the fixed oxy-acetylene system for a small hot-work job when two of the oxygen system's high pressure hoses, and the oxygen regulator, exploded in a flash fire.

It is probable that, when the trainee engineer opened the cylinder's valve, the heat created by the compression of the oxygen in the line ignited the lining in one of a pair of replacement high pressure hoses that had been recently fitted to the system.

The replacement hoses were not designed for use in a high pressure oxygen system. The hose liners had a low ignition temperature, the hoses were probably assembled in an oily environment, and the hose material did not comply with the appropriate standards for high pressure oxygen hoses.

The ATSB report also found that the hose assembler who supplied the hoses was not aware of any special requirements for high pressure oxygen systems when he assembled the hoses. Similarly, the ship's engineers were not aware of all of the hazards associated with high pressure oxygen systems or of the standards required for them.

The ATSB has made several safety recommendations with the aim of preventing further incidents of this type.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the internet site at www.atsb.gov.au

Media contact: 1800 620 616
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Last update 01 April 2011