Real Life Incident: Mouthful Of Chemical Will Not Slake Your Thirst

A junior officer was assigned to clean a lifeboat during dry docking. He took a small amount of tank cleaning chemical in an empty plastic mineral water bottle for the task.

Because there were no drinking water arrangements available at the jetty, he also carried with him some drinking water in a similar bottle. The two bottles were unmarked except for the water brand label; both liquids were clear.

While cleaning the lifeboat the officer picked up one of the bottles, assuming it contained the fresh water and took a drink. However, it was the tank cleaning chemical and not the water.

A mouthful of chemical will not slake your thirst
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As soon as he realised this, he spat it out immediately. He soon started getting an irritation in his mouth and throat, which persisted for some time. He was given immediate first aid and was later taken to hospital for further checks and medical attention.

Lessons learned

Chemicals are often ordered in bulk quantities that are inconvenient or unsuitable for everyday use. Subsequently, the chemicals may be transferred to smaller containers that are easier to manage. If it is necessary to transfer chemicals from their original containers:

  • Always transfer the chemicals in the chemical storage area
  • Use a container in good condition and of the appropriate type for the chemical
  • Ensure that the containers are clearly labelled. The labels should be clean and legible and should include: full product name, manufacturer name and material safety data sheet (MSDS) reference.
  • Never use drinking water bottles for the storing/transferring of chemicals.
  • Tank cleaning chemicals should not be used for cleaning lifeboats.


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