Apr 102012

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. Continue reading »

Feb 272012

Beware stringer openings in dark places

It’s too easy to forget that working in a confined or enclosed space can also exposed you to work aloft dangers, too. The Chief Engineer of the Bow Cecil took a step in the dark in a tank and never survived the subsequent fall.

On 8 March, 2010 Bow Cecil was en route from Houston, Texas to Salvador, Brazil. The electrician had, during an assignment in the fore peak tank, discovered a leak in an overboard line going through a tank, a little above stringer 10200, 10,20 m above the keel). The chief officer, the chief engineer and the first engineer decided to carry out an inspection of the leak, and make plans for the repair.

The repair itself would be carried out later.

The procedure for entry into enclosed spaces was followed, and the inspection started.

During the inspection, the chief engineer pointed his flashlight at a flange near the port side shell of the tank, and took a few steps in that direction. He suddenly fell through an opening in the stringer, and landed at the bottom of the tank, about eight meters below. Continue reading »

Jan 012012


Some accidents make one wonder whether Mr. Bean wrote the script. A recent safety alert for the Marine Safety Forum is an example. It could, of course, have been much worse, and did potentially put others in danger.

The MSF safety alert goes thusly, in its own words: “During preparation for tank cleaning onboard a PSV, one of the AB’s fell from the main deck down in starboard methanol tank. The fall height was 4,30 m. The AB was securing the area with blocking (barrier) tape and while moving backwards, he stepped into the tank. The injured person (IP) fractured his femur.

The vessel splanned start tank cleaning later that night, and the deck crew was removing the hatches from the man-holes in the cargo-rail in order to measure the content of oxygen, and ventilation of the tanks below main-deck. In total, 16 hatches were to be opened. After opening each tank, the Chief Officer measured the oxygen, and safety barriers were arranged around each tank. In
addition, a plastic grating was laid over each man-hole.

Continue reading »

Jul 252011

SafeSpace member Jim Nicol of Newslink brought our attention to a video from Singapore’s Workplace SafetyHealth Council with an interesting case study in which a surveyor was found dead after he entered a tank on board a barge. Watch this video and learn what went wrong and what should be done to prevent such tragic incidents.

The WSH Council has a good selection of resources for confined space issues. Check it out here or paste https://www.wshc.sg/wps/portal/confinedSpaceResources?openMenu=1 into your browser.

Click More to watch the video.


Continue reading »

Jul 232011

No situation is so bad that some bright executive can’t make it worse by inappropriate and ill-thought-through responses. One such response is the policy of banning entry into confined spaces entirely. It is a policy, probably imposed by legal eagles to avoid liability rather than increase safety, that has already led to grief in the case of the Viking Islay (See The Case of the Rusty Assassin) and will certainly lead to more.

MAC therefore noted comments by Philip Griffin on the Nautical Institute’s LinkedIn group thread on enclosed space safety that deserve a wider audience.

Rightly, he points out that banning confined space entries by policy, within the SMS, is not managing the issue. He says: “..much to my amazement is being put up by vessel operators. I doubt that this is lawful, but it is amazing that such a policy passes through system accreditation.I am witnessing a significant number of companies taking this approach”. Continue reading »

Jul 222011

Scottish Sea Farms, Loch Crenan. Photo: Scottish Association for Marine Science

Two companies have been fined a total of £640,000 following the death of two fish farm workers on a barge moored at a salmon farm on Loch Creran, Argyll & Bute.

Scottish Sea Farms worker, Campbell Files and engineer Arthur Raikes – employed by Logan Inglis Limited, Cumbernauld – were fixing a hydraulic crane on the barge when they went below deck to find cabling and pipework.

The oxygen levels below deck were very low and Mr Files passed out while Mr Raikes managed to climb back out.  In an attempt to rescue Mr Files, two colleagues, Maarten Den Heijer and Robert MacDonald entered the small chamber below deck but lost consciousness almost immediately.

The three men needed to be rescued by emergency services but only Mr Files recovered, while his colleagues died at the scene.

Following the incident on 11 May 2009, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered Scottish Sea Farms had not provided suitable information, instruction and training for employees working in the small sealed chambers on the Loch Creran barge or a safe way for them to work.

Logan Inglis Limited had not provided information, instruction or training for their engineers on working in these confined spaces so Mr Raikes was also not aware of the risks he faced on the barge. Continue reading »

Jul 212011

SafeSpace member Javier Saavedra from Galicia, Spain, has alerted us to a news report of the death of a worker in the ballast of a harbor dredger in a neighboring province.

One crewmember went inside the ballast tank without having previously made a gas check. On entering he lost consciousness and fell down and another crewman attempted to resce him, also losing consciousness.
Eventually a third crewmember went inside wearing a SCBA set and managed to take his two crewmates out. Rescucitation treatment was immediately commenced by the crew and as soon as emergency services showed up they immediately evacuated one of the casualties to hospital suffering from cardiopulmonary arrest. Continue reading »
Jul 212011

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.

The OS could only see as far as the second platform.

Continue reading »