Probably the most avoidable class of tragedy to haunt seafarers is that of the enclosed space/confined space death. Recently two men died in a barge on a Scottish Loch after falling unconscious.
An investigation is continuing but officials have already issued a warning. Says Scotland’s Press & Journal: “Iain MacKinnon, an environmental health officer with Argyll and Bute Council and Oban Coastguard station officer, said: “It sounds like the oxygen was very low. They would have had no time to react, and they probably didn’t realise what was happening to them.
“If you go into an atmosphere with low oxygen levels your systems shut down. The air you breathe all the time has roughly 20% oxygen in it. If you go into the hold of a ship, or a barge in this case, it can be as low as 5%.
“It happens in areas of ships where people don’t normally go.
“The rusting process takes the oxygen out of the air and into the metal. If the space is closed, there is no way of oxygen replenishing. It needs to be well-vented before people go in.”
He added: “There have been a number of fatalities over the years on ships. Companies should have rules and regulations for access in these places. The most recent case was on the North Sea supply ship Viking Islay when three men went into the chain locker, an area usually closed, where the anchor is kept.
“Equipment is available to check oxygen levels.
“Anyone entering one of the areas should check the safety protocol of the company.”
That’s good advice.
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