Work at height remains work at height when it is carried out in a confined space, as a report into a fatality aboard the Vanuatu-registered bulk carrier Polska Walczaca from the Australian Transport Safety Board. The fatality occured while the victim was intalling a repaired safety handrail on a platform 5 metres above the tank bottom of a cargo hold.
The victim did have a safety harness but was not wearing it, it was found on the platform from which he fell. He also appears not to have worn his hard hat properly, it was found without signs of impact damage some distance from the victim.
The two most obvious lessons are: wear a safety harness, wear a hardhat properly. However, there are other issues worth looking at.
SafeSpace member Kevin Cribbin sent this shocking video. We have no reliable information regarding the circumstances. What lessons can be learned from it?
Following the explosion and fire at the Chevron Pembroke Refinery on 2 June Britain’s Health and Safety Executive, HSE, has issued a reminder of the risks of tank cleaning operations and precautions to be taken. Said to be Britain’s worst refinery incident since 1974, four lives were lost and one person was hospitalised with serious burns.
Three of the deceased were contractors employed by BDS,a local company, working in a large storage tank on the refinery’s sulphur recovery plant. The two other workers were fire marshals from Hertel, a national contracting company. The incident was contained on site and there
were no offsite effects. The refinery is a ‘top tier’ establishment under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (as a mended), COMAH.
Informal Tanker Operators Safety Forum currently carries this photo of a useful cheap way of making entry into a ballast tank, or any manhole, that bit safer.Says the blog: “The… arrangement easily fits on the manhole studs and is light & portable”.
Apparently the arrangement came about following a close call, which demonstrates the importance of reporting close calls.
It’s easy to lose grip or slip when climbing into a manhole of this kind, which may then lead to need to rescue from a confined space, and this arrangement reduces the chance of that happening.
It is also worth pointing out that when opening a confined space of this sort, whether it’s a ballast tank or an anchor cable locker, it is a good idea to step back – one can become enveloped in a cloud of oxygen deficient air and be rendered unconscious – yes it has happened more than once.
Our brains depend on oxygen and the lower the level of oxygen the less alert we are and the less able we are to understand the dangers we are in. Although our muscles depend on oxygen there is another phenomenon that occurs when oxygen levels fall – the brain itself begin to shut down our muscles, making us move slower.
“Effect of graded hypoxia on supraspinal contributions to fatigue with unilateral knee-extensor contractions“ does not come trippingly off the tongue but this paper by Stuart Goodall Emma Z. Ross Lee M. Romer of the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance, Brunel University and Chelsea School Research Centre, University of Brighton, give an insight into the way in which the brain seeks to protect muscles when oxygen levels are low.
SafeSpace member Javier Saavedra, AFNI, who is an international member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, ASSE, has brought attention to a per-reviewed article in Professional Safety, the ASSE journal: Confined Spaces: Common Misconceptions & Errors in Complying With OSHA’s Standard By Bill Taylor.
Says the introduction: “OSHA’s confined space standard is arguably among the most difficult of the agency’s standards to comprehend and with which to comply. What makes compliance so difficult? What is it employers are not doing? Common audit findings encountered are described to help employers improve their confined space systems, as are several misconceptions about the confined space standard itself”.
The paper s available free to ASSE members and $8 for non-members in PDF format.
New guidelines on tank entry tankers using nitrogen as an inerting medium have been released by the Internatonal Maritime Organisation. Nitrogen is used to prevent explosive atmospheres in tanks by reducing the level of oxygen as well as to ‘pad’ chemical cargoes against contamination.
A number of non-tank vessels use nitrogen for other purposes and the guidelines should also be applied in such cases.
Nitrogen not only displaces the oxygen need to live by also the carbon dioxide that triggers the breathing reflex.
Fatalities have occurred when seafarers have entered tanks which were wholly or partially inerted.
The guidelines point out that a deep breath of 100 per cent nitrogen will kill.
(Thanks to Jim Nicol of Newslink for bring this to our attention)
Nothing was learned from the report by New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission on two fatalities aboard the TPC Wellington bulker except that lessons are not being learned about the dangers of confined space entry. A chief officer with plentiful experience in the particular cargo loaded, logs, entered a confined space, collapsed, followed by another member of the deck crew. Both died in less than 10 minutes.
Neither the ship’s owner, nor those in command of the vessel, had equipped the crew with the awareness or training to enter the space safely or to be rescued should an incident occur.
The scenario is frustratingly familiar. It is one that will continue to kill seafarers in large numbers until the maritime industry as a whole, from those working on deck to those commanding multi-million dollar enterprises, in the public and private sectors, as well a professional organisations and labour unions come together to make forceful efforts to reduce this unacceptable toll.
In its summary of the report TAIC says: “On the afternoon of 3 May 2010, the bulk log carrier TPC Wellington was loading logs in Port Marsden, Northland. When the chief officer entered a cargo hold that was full of logs that had been loaded at a previous port, he rapidly lost useful consciousness (lost the ability to hold on to the ladder) and fell from the ladder onto the cargo below.