15 June 2006

Cutting Work Incident

Safety Incident Topic : Cutting Work
Location Of Incident : Lingen, Germany
Date Of Incident : 19th August, 2005

Brief Account Of Incident
A worker from an outside contracting company (a repair company for steam boilers) was given the task of separating some steel pipes from a bundle of superheater pipes (1a) in Steam Boiler 2. To cut the pipes he used an angle grinder (P=2.2KW) with a cutting disk (D=230mm). When he was cutting out his third pipe, he put the angle grinder to the pipe at a height of about 1.8 m from the work platform. He switched the angle grinder to continuous operation mode. The pipe began to work loose whilst he was cutting through it and the cutting disk got stuck. The angle grinder recoiled and hit the workman on the left side of his chest. The angle grinder lodged in his work clothing. A colleague who was present prevented any further injury by switching the power off. The injured man was able to climb down from the scaffolding and leave the enclosed space unaided. The security guards called the ambulance men, who carried out first aid on him before taking him to the local hospital.The man was discharged after receiving treatment in the outpatients department, and the following day he was given lighter work to do (RWI).

- Lacerations in the left chest area which responded to medical treatment in hospital (MTC).
- If the injury had been to his neck, the accident would have to have been classified as a major incident (MIA).

Possible Immediate Causes
- Unfavourable working position.
- The man was overtaxing his body at the time.
- Incorrect cutting sequence. (The first cut should have been in the lower section).
- The decision to start cutting at the top was the wrong one.
- It was a seemingly easy routing task and the man had not thought it through properly).
- Noise was a hazard. The pipe was under tension. The tools / working environment presented a mechanical hazard.
- The working position and ambient temperature were ergonomically unfavorable.

Possible Causes in the System
- Exhaustion as a result of the work load.
- Reduced performance as a result of the high room temperature.
- The man felt he had to finish the job quickly.
- The contracting company’s system for informing employees about work-related incidents is capable of improvement.

What Went Wrong
- The pipe which was to be cut out was under tension.
- In the position where it was, the angle grinder could not be operated safely.
- The angle grinder had been switched over to continuous mode.

What Went Well
- His colleague was on the spot to offer immediate help.
- The security guard had the workmen in view and was able to alarm the emergency services at the refinery immediately.
- The rescue team worked quickly and professionally.

Lessons learned
- It is important not to underestimate potential hazards from routine jobs.

- Select prudently when choosing which tools to work with.
- Angle grinders should not be switched to continuous mode when working in an unusual position.
- Before each separate stage in the work, the workmen must assess the possible dangers, independently of the ambient conditions, and should take the necessary preventive steps.

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