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”.

Should confined space entry be treated as something special and ring-fenced from other shipboard activities? Green thinks not: “… no space on a ship should be off-limits to her crew, confined space entry needs to be a routine process, and confined space rescue (rather than entry) needs to be drilled.

“Whilst it may be counter-intuitive – because people are being killed in confined spaces – actually entering and working in them needs to be routine , and therefore the subject of entry-level competency training. The flip-side of all of this is that for all that to carry forward, SMSs and ship’s equipment iwo rescue and monitoring; all needs to be removed from emergency chapters/lockers and into SOPs/working gear. We are in danger of creating an entirely inappropriate mindset which will mystify that which ought to be be routine and almost mundane”.

It is an approach that makes a lot of sense.

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