Following a routine crew change, an Offshore Support Vessel was two days into a trip offshore.
The anchor chain within the chain locker had been banging against the hull of the vessel and disturbing the crew. Two crew members decided to enter the chain locker. They advised the AB watch rating and arranged to keep in contact with the bridge via VHF radio. The watch rating became aware of a problem and raised the alarm. He then left the bridge and attempted to enter the chain locker with a BA set but got into difficulties accessing the chain locker and collapsed.
All of the crew involved in the accident were experienced seafarers.
A safety alert has been circulated reinforcing the company’s Safety Management Systems (SMS) with specific focus on Enclosed or Confined Space Entry (ECSE) and the use of risk assessments and permits to work (PTW) procedures.
Specific points highlighted in the safety alert include:
Whenever possible, ECSE should be undertaken in port utilising specialist onshore
resources following the company’s SMS procedures.
Any ECSE undertaken offshore should be authorised and controlled through the use of the company’s SMS involving the use of risk assessments and PTW procedures and should follow the guidance in the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seaman (Section 17).
ECSE should only take place once the relevant safeguards are in place which should
include checking the atmosphere, venting and gas-freeing the space, as appropriate, using suitable equipment by a competent person. If the appropriate safeguards are not in place, the work must not take place.
As way of guidance, an enclosed or confined space can be defined as:
‘a space which it is foreseeable that the atmosphere may at some stage contain toxic or flammable gasses or vapours, or be deficient in oxygen, to the extent that it may endanger the life or health of any person entering that space’
It may also include:
‘a space which has the following characteristics: limited openings for entry and exit;
unfavourable natural ventilation and is not designed for continuous worker occupancy; and would include but is not limited to cargo, double bottoms, fuel tanks, ballast tanks, forepeak tanks, pump rooms, compressor rooms, void spaces (including chain lockers), duct keels, inter-barrier space, engine crank cases and sewage tanks’