London Club Warning on Enclosed Spaces

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The London P&I Club has warned of the potential dangers faced by seafarers on entering enclosed onboard spaces, in the event that proper safety procedures are not followed.

IMO recommends that a competent person should undertake a preliminary assessment of the risk that the atmosphere might be toxic, flammable or oxygen-deficient. And, writing in the latest issue of its StopLoss Bulletin, the Club says, “The need for such measures has again been underlined by a recent case in which the responsible officer undertook a risk assessment prior to entry into a large chain locker, and concluded that there was no significant risk involving toxic or flammable vapours or gases.

“But the risk of oxygen depletion appears to have been misjudged, such that the oxygen content of the atmosphere was not tested prior to entry. The misjudgment became apparent when a crew member collapsed shortly after entering the chain locker. And since no such difficulty had been anticipated, his colleagues did not have breathing apparatus on standby.

“Nevertheless, tribute should be paid to the crew members who were present, who remembered their training and resisted the natural temptation to rush to the assistance of their stricken colleague, without protecting themselves first. And tribute should be paid also to the suitably equipped ship’s emergency team, which was quickly able to recover the seaman, who has since made a full recovery.

“The owner’s investigation concluded that the gradual process of oxidisation of the anchor cable and the compartment structure had depleted the oxygen in the chain locker, which was not adequately ventilated prior to entry.”

The Club concludes, “This near-miss serves as a reminder of the dangers of oxygen depletion in apparently innocuous enclosed spaces. And, while the successful rescue emphasises the importance of comprehensive safety and rescue training, the owners are considering whether personal gas detection monitors could further enhance safety procedures.”

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