Real Life Accident: Bent Bolt Squeezes Chief Engineer’s Finger

In preparation for a maintenance job by an outside contractor, the chief engineer (CE) and an assisting crew member were to remove some stainless steel bolts and their associated ‘nylock’ nuts from a piece of deck equipment. Before starting the job, the CE conducted a toolbox talk on how they would proceed with the job.

The assisting crew member was holding the pneumatic rattle gun, which was attached to the bolt. The CE was attempting to locate the socket; he was kneeling down and could not see the location of the socket, so he was trying to line up and grip the ‘nylock’ nut by feel. Meanwhile, another job was being undertaken on deck nearby and may have caused some distraction.

Representation Image - Credits: Ramanus Bite
Representation Image – Credits: Ramanus Bite

As the CE was locating the nut using his fingers (without gloves) he apparently gave the signal to the crew member to activate the pneumatic rattle gun. The crew member squeezed the trigger and the moving bolt crushed the CE’s finger against the recessed sleeve in which the nut and bolt were housed.

The subsequent investigation found that the bolt was bent, which was unknown to the crew performing the job. Had the bolt been straight the consequences would have been less severe or nonexistent.

Lessons learned

  • The activity on the deck caused by another job being simultaneously undertaken could have been distracting, acting as a barrier to communication for the two men.
  • The CE was not wearing gloves, which could have reduced the severity of the injury.
  • Whenever possible use tools instead of fingers.
  • Pneumatic tools reduce the need for manual labour and limit repetitive strain injuries. However they can also increase risks to the user and those around them due to the energy delivered. When using pneumatic tools or other energy storage devices, crew should be aware of the risks.


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