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Battery maintenance tied to B.C. tug blast: TSB

Review calls attention to the importance of having detailed instructions for battery maintenance
TSB of Canada@TSBCanada

A Transportation Safety Board report says poor battery maintenance contributed to an explosion on a tug working in a remote inlet in British Columbia in 2020.

An investigation report into the August 2020 blast aboard the Risco Warrior says “continuous unregulated charging” ran the tug’s battery dry.

Combined with a lack of maintenance, the report says the batteries running dry caused overheating and internal damage to the battery plates.

The barge was being steadied against a dock in a remote area near the northern end of Bute Inlet, north of Powell River, at the time of the explosion.

A lack of ventilation in the battery compartment also allowed flammable hydrogen gas to build up.

The report says a spark from an unknown source ignited the gas, causing the explosion that damaged the tug and slightly injured two crew members.

The safety board report released Wednesday says the tug operator has improved maintenance and created a safety plan for the vessel. In a news release, the board says the operator has also improved ventilation in the battery compartment and installed new equipment.

But the report says the case draws attention to the importance of having detailed instructions for battery maintenance as well as a formal safety management system in place.

“As demonstrated in this occurrence, if a vessel operator does not provide formal safety management processes, then there is an increased likelihood that hazards will not be identified and their associated risks will not be mitigated,” the report says.

It also says unsafe equipment and operating practices on small tugs will continue without comprehensive inspections and enforcement of safety rules.

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