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)
Know your limits, and the limits of your equipment, and know what your detector is detecting are a couple of the lessons learned from a close-call incident during a Port State Control Certificate of Compliance “Gas”, COC-Gas, exam involving entry into a cargo compressor room aboard an LPG carrier. The vessel’s fixed gas detectors did not set off an alert even though the atmosphere was hazardous.
Says USCG Sector Houston – Galveston: ” personnel recently averted a potentially hazardous exposure to 1,3 butadiene, a known carcinogen, while conducting a Port State Control Certificate of Compliance “Gas” (COC-Gas) exam. The examiners followed USCG Sector Houston-Galveston guidance for entry into cargo compressor rooms that required the space to be certified “Safe for Workers” by a marine chemist prior to entry of Coast Guard personnel. With the compressors secured and ventilation in operation the Marine Chemist found 35 ppm of 1,3 butadiene within the compressor room and could not certify the space as safe for workers in accordance with the published NIOSH Short Term Exposure Limit, STEL, of 5 ppm.
“When notified of the gas in the compressor room the inspection team discussed their concem with why the fixed gas detection system was not identifying the presence of the gas. Further research determined that the lower explosive limit (LEL) for 1,3 butadiene is 20,000 ppm, and the fixed gas detection alarm set point of 10% of LEL would be 2,000 ppm. The 35 ppm reading obtained on the marine chemist’s photo-ionization detector (PHD) would correlate to approx .00175 % LEL, a level not measurable on the fixed gas detection system. Failure to follow this local guidance would have resulted in persormel being exposed to seven times the maximum limit allowed by the STEL”.
So, although the atmosphere was ‘safe’ with regard to the hazard of exposure it was not safe with regard to health.
Concludes the USCG: “All persormel working around 1,3 Butadiene should be keenly aware of and cautious of gas leaks and review MSDS for specific hazards and exposure limits. It is critical to understand the different hazards associated with all gaseous cargoes and the limitations of the meters in use on board and carried. Failure to follow written procedures or take appropriate precautions prior to entering or working in an area suspected of or likely to contain even the slightest amount of cargo vapor may result in long term health issues.