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Poisoning hazards and first aid treatment onboard chemical tankers

The poison is a very toxic substance which when absorbed into the human body by ingestion, skin absorption, or inhalation produces a serious or fatal effect. Poison may enter the human body orally, by inhalation, or by skin contact. After being absorbed by the body it may affect certain organs or give a general poisonous effect. Lately the cancerogene effects of some industrial chemicals have been noticed. This has led to significant reductions of hereto accepted TLV- values in many countries.

Certain substances affect the tissues locally as an irritant (cashew nut shell oil) or cause grave damage to the eyes, skin or mucous membranes (e g strong acids and caustic). Other substances may be absorbed by contact to the skin without local effects (e g nitrobenzene, aniline).

Gases, in themselves non-poisonous, may be dangerous by their displacement of air (e g nitrogen as an inert gas in cargo tanks). The effect of a substance also depends on the temperature, its solubility in water or (skin) fat, its volatility etc. Chlorinated hydrocarbons (e g tetrachloride and chloroform) may cause damage to kidneys and liver after prolonged exposures.

Symptoms of poisoning may appear many hours after contact with the substance. Typical examples are poisoning from nitrous gases, and methanol ( oral intake). The reason for the delay being that the decomposition products rather than the original product are toxic. Common symptoms of poisoning are: nausea, headache, dizziness, difficult breathing, unconsciousness.

The human body often reacts very differently to acute and chronical poisoning. (Acute poisoning - one contact with the poison, usually high dose or strong concentration. Chronical poisoning - small doses or low concentrations over a long time). E g benzene causes reduced conscoiusness in acute poisoning but causes blood and bone marrow damage in chronical poisoning.

Certain chemicals may cause sensitizing upon first contact. Later contacts with the same chemical, even at lower concentrations, may cause much stronger poisonous effects. Typical in this respect are isocyanates ( e g toluene diisocyanates) where astmathic -affects on sensitized persons may occur below TLV- value.

First aid treatment

All cases of poisoning, regardless of which kind of poison, require certain basic common methods of treatment. Additionally, a few particular cases of poisonous substances may require antidotes.

After a severe acute case of poisoning involving unconsciousness: Bring the patient as soon as possible out into the fresh air. Rescue personnel must not take undue risks themselves, don't therefore rush down into tanks or pumprooms where vapour may be present- Too many fatalities have occurred with people who have not realised that a breathing apparatus was needed. First, keep the breathing passages free (prevent the tongue from falling back). An unconscious person should be laid on his side, face down, with one arm and one leg bent to prevent him from rolling over. Loosen the clothes around the neck and waist and remove false teeth.

Mouth to mouth artificial breathing may be necessary (avoid mouth to mouth contact with severely poisoned or contaminated patients as the rescuer may then be at risk). Heart massage may be necessary.

If the patient's condition does not apparently involve immediate risk for his life the following measures are applicable:

After inhalation: The patient to be brought into fresh air with as little effort and strain to himself as possible, Undue strain on the patient may affect him adversely later. Even if the patient is free of all symptoms he should be kept quiet and rest as some gases have delayed effects (nitrogen oxides in combustion inert gas, nitrous gases). Keep the patient in a comfortable inclined sitting position (if unconsciousness does not prevent it).

After splash in the eyes: Immediately wash the eyes in gently flowing water, in a washbasin, in a jug or a special plastic eye bath with a bottle of water. The eyelids may have to be forced open and the patient told to move the eyes in order that all parts will be thoroughly rinsed out. Washing out the eyes may be very painful and pain-relief eye drops can be used. Continue to wash for another 10-15 minutes. In case of acids or alkalies (caustic) the washing must be repeated for a couple of minutes every 15-30 min for the next 4-5 hours, preferably with a NaCl (table) salt solution (0, 7 - 0, 9 %). A sterilising eye ointment should be applied several times during the day.
In case of acids and alkalies: obtain medical advice!

chemical suit
Fig: Chemical suit

After skin contact: Regardless of product the area should be rinsed liberally with water, clean sea water can be used.Soiled clothes, rings, watches, shoes etc must be taken off. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Also products which do not disolve in water will be partly removed by washing in soapwater. (Poison dissolved in the skin fat will then be washed off).

After swallowing: If the patient is unaffected give him a couple of glasses of liquid to drink for dilution of the poison, preferably water (never any alcoholic drink). After intake of alkalies (caustic) a drink of lemon juice can be given, or a 1 '76 solution of acetic acid. If available give medicine coal which absorbes a number of poisons and which in itself is harmless (30-60 crushed coal tablets or coal granulate in some water). Make the patient vomit, NOT, however, in the case of corroding (acids or caustic) products or oil products like kerosenes, gasoline, jet fuels, when vomiting may be life-threatening. Dilution of the stomach contents, however, is important. In case of doubt: do not cause the patient to vomit.

Vomiting can be caused by giving warm salt water (one table spoon of salt to one glass of water). Then by putting two fingers down the throat and moving them about gently vomiting usually follows.

After certain products antidotes should be given. The most likely cargo for which an antidote may have to be used is acrylonitrile ("AN") and acetone cyanohydrine. The remedy then is to douse some clean rag with an ampoule of amyl nitrite from the medicine kit and hold it under the patient's nose 5 times with 15 s interval.

Oxygen should be administered in cases of weak breathing. It is an IMO Code requirement to have oxygen resuscitation equipment on board.

In cases of poisoning medical advice should be sought as soon as possible, e.g through the various radiomedical" services. While at sea also contact the shipper, who usually possesses a good knowledge of the product and its after effects.

Related Info

  1. Toxicology and associated hazards onboard chemical tankers

  2. Toxicity is the ability of a substance, when inhaled, ingested, or absorbed by the skin, to cause damage to living tissue, impairment of the central nervous system, severe illness or, in extreme cases, death. The amounts of exposure required to produce these results vary widely with the nature of the substance and the duration of exposure to it. ....

  3. Hazards of vapour given off by a flammable liquid while carrying at sea

  4. Vapour given off by a flammable liquid will burn when ignited provided it is mixed with certain proportions of air, or more accurately with the oxygen in air. But if there is too little or too much vapour compared to the air, so that the vapour-and-air mixture is either too lean or too rich, it will not burn. ....

  5. Reactivity of various noxious liquid chemicals

  6. Self-reaction: The most common form of self-reaction is polymerisation. Polymerisation generally results in the conversion of gases or liquids into viscous liquids or solids. It may be a slow, natural process which only degrades the product without posing any safety hazards to the ship or the crew, or it may be a rapid, exothermic reaction evolving large amounts of heat and gases. .....

  7. Most corrosive chemicals carried onboard chemical tankers

  8. Acids, anhydrides and alkalis are among the most commonly carried corrosive substances. They can rapidly destroy human tissue and cause irreparable damage. They can also corrode normal ship construction materials, and create a safety hazard for a ship.....

  9. Posoning hazards & first aid treatment

  10. The poison is a very toxic substance which when absorbed into the human body by ingestion, skin absorption, or inhalation produces a serious or fatal effect. Poison may enter the human body orally, by inhalation, or by skin contact. After being absorbed by the body it may affect certain organs or give a general poisonous effect. Lately the cancerogene effects of some industrial chemicals have been noticed. This has led to significant reductions of hereto accepted TLV- values in many countries.....
  11. Specific gravity,Vapour pressure and boiling point,Electrostatic charging & measuring Viscosity
  12. Tanks on a Chemical Tanker are normally designed to load cargoes of a higher specific gravity than an oil tanker. Very often the design strength differs between groups of tanks on the same ship. ....

  13. General precautions onboard chemical tankers

  14. Additional precautions for specific cargoes are necessary and should also be incorporated in the ship’s cargo handling procedures....

  15. Mooring precautions onboard chemical tankers

  16. The consequences of a chemical tanker ranging along a jetty or breaking away from a berth could be disastrous, especially during a cargo transfer involving multiple different chemicals. Correct and sufficient mooring is therefore of the utmost importance.

  17. Berth precautions onboard chemical tankers

  18. If an unauthorised craft comes alongside or operates in an area which may create a danger, it should be reported to the port authority and, if necessary, cargo transfer operations should cease. .....

  19. Cold weather countermeasures, avoiding electric storms

  20. During cold weather, precautions should be taken to prevent equipment and systems from freezing. Attention should be given to pneumatic valves and control systems, fire lines and hydrants, steam driven equipment, cargo heating systems, pressure/vacuum valves etc......

  21. Restriction on using radio equipments and other mobile devices in cargo working areas

  22. During medium and high frequency radio transmissions significant energy is radiated, which can create a danger of incendive sparking by inducing an electrical potential in unearthed steelwork.

  23. Securing cargo tank lids and required safety precautions

  24. Improper closing and sealing of cargo tank hatches can be a major cause of cargo contamination. A properly closed and sealed tank hatch/opening will prevent sea water ingress and maintain a positive pressure Nitrogen blanket in the ullage space. ....

  25. Means of access (gangways or accommodation ladders) safety precautions

  26. Emergency towing-off wires ( fire wires) ,Ship’s readiness to move Deckhouses and superstructures safety precautions .....

  27. Precautions against static electricity

  28. Static electricity is generated by friction that occurs between different materials during relative motion. Electrostatic charges can then accumulate in materials which are poor conductors of electricity or which are good conductors but are insulated.....

  29. Cargo tank entry safety precautions

  30. On chemical tankers the entry of personnel into cargo tanks is a more common practice than on oil tankers as a result of the requirement for inspections between grades etc; despite this, it is essential that the necessary checks are conscientiously made and recorded prior to entry in order to ensure the safety of personnel, enclosed space rescue equipment must be made ready for immediate use. .....

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