Dec 072007

Commenting on the recent meeting of the Maritime Accident Investigators International Forum in Beijing, Stephen Meyer, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents for the UK’s MAIB writes in the latest Safety Digest, released this month,

“Please read these cases and then consider, if accident investigators from around the world all see these same issues time and again in accidents, how confident are you that you/your ship/your company are getting them right?

The other key concern we all shared was the apparent growth in the number of accidents involving entry into enclosed/confined spaces. Although there are no examples in this Safety Digest, MAIB is currently dealing with three such cases, two of them fatal, and many other countries at MAIIF reported similar. Please look again at your systems and re-brief your crews on the importance of correct ventilation and entry procedures. This is a critical area, where complacency cannot be allowed to grow.”

Enclosed space entry accidents are a hot button for MAC. They’re covered specifically in two episodes (The Case Of The Silent Assassin and the Case Of The Electric Assassin – due for broadcast 7th December) as well as the related Case Of The Lethal Lampshade – all available on the podcasts page.

Sadly, such cases often involve multiple casualties: the seafarer who was first effected followed by the would-be rescuer/s.

Of the incidents we’ve looked at to date one theme seems to be consistent: ship’s officers who think they’re smarter than the people who wrote the enclosed space safe entry procedures and set poor safety standards that they pass on those those under their command. Poor monitoring of safety procedures by the ship’s management and an almost total lack of competency assessment compound the problem.

Be pro-active. Always assume an enclosed space is dangerous, because it is, know the rules about safe entry and stick to them.

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