The Marine Safety Forum Safety flash on three fatalities in a chain locker aboard what was, in fact, the Viking Islay in September this year in BP’s Amethyst Field, which is currently under investigation by the UK’s MAIB, is a reminder that the Silent Assassin remains among us.
Just a month before the Viking Islay incident the rotting remains of a missing fisherman were found in the chain locker of the Pacific Explorer in New Zealand He’d been missing for a year. Foul play is not suspected, but foul air certainly is.
In 2005, Skuld P&I Club issued a ‘lessons to be learned’ following the death of one man and the fainting of another while inspecting a chain a locker.
More recently, the London P&I Club’s Stoploss tells the tale of an officer who made a risk assessment for work inside a large chain locker, concluded that there wasn’t any. Shortly afterwards a crewman collapsed while cleaning the locker with, of course, no breathing equipment or rescue equipment standing by. Fortunately the other crew member’s did NOT rush in to rescue him – they got a suitably equipped crewman to do it.
The culprit in these cases was oxygen depletion, the Silent Assassin that kills without warning. When metal and oxygen get together they make rust and suck oxygen out of the space and can, and do, take so much that oxygen levels fall to where they cannot sustain life. In that atmosphere you will die.
A chain locker is an enclosed space. Indeed, if it’s a box with a door in it anywhere on the ship, it’s an enclosed space. Always check oxygen levels and make sure the right equipment is standing by, just in case. If someone does collapse, don’t rush in the rescue unless you’re wearing the right equipment – self-contained breathing apparatus.