Apr 172010

imageA mistaken connection resulted in a worker wearing an air-fed mask dying while using abrasive blasting in a hazardous drains tank. His mask was fed with nitrogen instead of air, reports Step Change In Safety.

Says the report: “A fabric maintenance campaign was being conducted on the normally unmanned (NU) Franklin WHP. The platform has a fixed network to distribute air but does not have a permanent air supply, therefore a temporary air compressor was installed to supply breathing air for the task. The air from the compressor was being distributed through the platform pipe air network, providing connection points for users at the platform utility points.

On the day of the incident the standby man connected the Air Fed Mask at the utility station onto a crows-foot type fitting, which was later confirmed to be a nitrogen line and not the intended air supply line. Since there was no permanent air available on the WHP during NU operations, at some point a crows foot fitting had been fitted to the nitrogen supply line to allow it to be used to power air tools. Line labelling on the WHP was misleading. Both the nitrogen and air supply lines carried blue labels and the lettering on the label was not easily visible

Lessons Learnt:

  • The practice of powering air tools with nitrogen has been stopped other than when for technical reasons, there is a requirement to do so, in which case a specific assessment must be completed and robust control measures put in place for this to be done as a temporary measure for a specific task.
  • Utility stations on all sites have been checked to ensure they have incompatible fittings to prevent cross over.  The inspection of connection points is now included in regular monitoring and auditing scheme as a planned maintenance task.
  • All utility pipes to be clearly labelled to a consistent company wide standard.
  • Company procedures updated to include clear guidance on the controls on breathing air specifically for operations where air fed RPE is to be worn.

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