SAFETY DOWN BELOW IS KEY
The most dangerous place on a boat is the engine room. This is the place where things can go seriously wrong, very quickly. Throw flammable substances and a variety of moving parts into the mix, and the engine room is a veritable breeding ground for disaster and injury, but, with special care, the possibility of physical injury is never fully alleviated but it can be dramatically reduced.
If you’ve owned a boat for any length of time, picking up inconsistencies in engine noise will become second nature and sooner or later, you’ll have to venture into the depths of the engine room. Think of yourself as an ER specialist and the engine is your patient who needs medical attention. When venturing into the engine room, the most important thing to do is to protect yourself.
The high decibel ratings typically found in a confined engine room can be very damaging to unprotected ears. Stuffing bits of cotton wool or tissue paper won’t work. If you are going to be spending time in the engine room, invest in a proper set of acoustic dampening ear muffs. Have the ear muffs on hand near the entrance to the engine compartment. They can be hanging up for easy use.
FITS LIKE A GLOVE
Have gloves at the ready near the ear muffs as engines are typically very hot and can burn unprotected appendages. If you’re working with a small screw or bolt that requires you to remove your gloves, then do so, but put your gloves back on for all other jobs.
In the cramped conditions found in the engine room, it is always advisible to wear a tight fitting long sleeved sweatshirt to protect your arms against burns. Yes, we know that the engine room is a hot place to work in, but it will keep your arms free of burns. Keep the sweatshirt handy with the gloves and earmuffs. Loose fitting garments do not work in the confined spaces of the engine room as they can get caught in the moving parts of the motor. Avoid loose fitting clothing when working in the engine room as the main cause of injury in an engine compartment occurs when coming into contact with moving parts.
All engine rooms and smaller engine compartments should have good overhead lighting. Without good lighting, there will be many areas that are dark and shadowy, making working is those areas very difficult. In most cases, even with good overhead lighting, a head lamp or portable handheld lamp is required to see into the dark recesses of the engine room. Battery powered LED headlamps typically last a long time or a rechargeable hand held lamp will work well for this type of application.
Accidents can still occur in the engine room without human intervention. There are certain items that should never be left in an engine room and these are oil, flammable solvents and material rags. Rags tend to absorb petrol-based fumes and these rags can then self-combust without warning. Any oil leaks detected in the engine room should be sorted out as soon as possible as they are one of the primary causes of fires. All hoses and fittings should also be regularly checked for leaks and replaced when they are showing signs of wear.
The engine room is the heart that keeps the boat on the move. And like any heart, it needs to be looked after in the best possible way for you to enjoy a long and fruitful life on the water.