Enclosed Spaces – Tackling the Silent Assassin

Apr 9, 2016 0 Comments in Resources by
Enclosed Spaces – Tackling the Silent Assassin

Every year in the UK a number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces.

This happens in a wide range of industries, from those involving complex plant to simple storage vessels and those killed include the people working inside the confined space but oftentimes it is also those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment that perish.

No ship is immune from enclosed space entry accidents: the usual suspects are cargo holds, engine rooms, and fish holds, but there are so many different types of space that need to be identified, including cable lockers and others ... Shipowners should be identifying spaces potentially classified as enclosed so the crew can engage their permit to work systems properly.

Steve Clinch MAIB

On 26 May 2014, whilst discharging a cargo of sawn timber in Goole, UK, three crew members on board the MV Suntis, were found unconscious in the main cargo hold forward access compartment.  

For whatever reason, two of the ship’s crew had entered the forward main hold access compartment. The chief officer, who had been looking for the two crewmen, found the compartment hatch cover open and shouted down to them before climbing into the space. A third crewman saw the chief officer enter the compartment, but when he looked down the hatch, he saw the chief officer collapse.

The alarm was raised and an initially frantic rescue operation was undertaken with the crew members being recovered from the compartment but, despite intensive resuscitation efforts by their rescuers, they did not survive. Such is the swift and deadly outcome of this invisible killer.

Subsequent Fire and Rescue Service analysis of the atmosphere after the accident showed normal readings (20.9%) of oxygen content at the access hatch, however the readings reduced to 10% just inside the hatch opening and to between 5% and 6% at the bottom of the ladder. Such low levels of oxygen simply cannot support life and anyone exposed to such levels will faint almost immediately, followed by convulsions, coma and respiratory seizure within a few minutes.

It was determined that the timber cargo was the likely cause of the oxygen deprivation.

At International Marine Survey Ltd, we are pleased to see that in recent months many of the UK's leading ports are taking active measures to safeguard those working within their sites, with simple Gas Free checks taking place before commencement of cargo operations but with awareness of this danger still not fully appreciated we have put together a collection of useful resources below to assist in understanding the risks involved. 

If you have any concerns about your operations, need assistance or advice, do not hesitate to contact the IMS team and if you found this article interesting, please leave a comment below.


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