The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Board’s latest Safety Digest is, like its predecessors, insightful and informed with a certain British quirkiness that makes it highly readable. Among the accidents and lessons in the first edition of 2012 is an issue lose to MAC’s heart: confined spaces and, in particular, the hazards posed by adjacent spaces.
In this case ‘panting’ during rough weather was involved. It has happened before (See The Case of the Tablets Of Love). In this case, ferrous metal turnings described as ‘steaming’ were loaded into the cargo hold. However, they were presumed to be scrap metal, therefore non-hazardous, as opposed to coming under IMDG Code Class 4.2.
Ventilation ducting went from the cargo hold, through the forward store to a deck vent. The ducting was holed where it passed through the forward store. The store itself had been secured for heavy weather and so was unventilated.
During the voyage the metal turnings oxidised, resulting in an oxygen deficient atmosphere. The ‘panting’ of the vessel in rough weather equalised the atmosphere between the cargo hold and the forward store.
Two men carrying out maintenance entered the forward store, closed the door, and went down a ladder to store itself. There they were asphyxiated.
The Safety Digest covers a broad range of accidents and close calls, each a lesson, and reminder.