Due to the nature of a ship, confined spaces are part of the daily lives for those who work within. Learning to take the correct precautions, using the right equipment and receiving the correct training within these areas is essential for seafaring personnel to ensure their safety.
Ignoring a confined space and working within it without these precautions is a significant risk to all involved. Negligence and failure to follow safety procedures when entering confined spaces can kill or injure.
The following example shows how confined spaces can kill while on board a ship.
While a ship was at port, a team of engineers were given instructions to carry out maintenance on a leaky storm valve within the engine room. This work was carried out at the start of the day, with teams busy preparing for and carrying out their duties.
The nature of the work required two engineers to enter a confined space where the valve was located. Before starting the work the two engineers isolated the feed line and slackened the valve from the mounting point.
As soon as the valve was removed, highly toxic gas began leaking into the confined space. The two engineers, caught completely unaware, were affected by the gas within seconds and collapsed. The gas had built up within the system they were working on, leaking out once the valve was removed.
Some time after they had collapsed, a third engineer entered the tunnel to search for the missing pair. The air, filled with toxic gas, also caused him to collapse as soon as he entered the confined space without protective gear.
The three died at the scene. After a few hours had passed and people started to become worried about the missing engineers, another colleague informed the chief engineer of the situation.
A specialist team equipped with protective equipment such as breathing apparatus entered the confined space to find the missing engineers, soon discovering that all three had died due to suffocation caused by the toxic gas.
These deaths were avoidable; all engineers involved neglected to follow the safety procedures when entering confined spaces and the requirements for gas detection when overhauling storm valves were also not followed. The third engineer who died in the space also neglected to take the proper precautions when entering a confined space.