With eight deaths in a week as a result of enclosed spaces on ships, InterManager has called on the shipping industry to work together to improve safety in these challenging onboard areas.
Three seafarers and five shore workers died over one week in accidents in enclosed spaces on ships, bringing this year’s known deaths to a total of 31, although the reporting process can be slow. InterManager, the international trade association for the ship and crew management sector, keeps records of these incidents on behalf of the wider shipping community, sharing them with regulators in its role as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
These statistics reveal that since 1996 310 people lost their lives in enclosed spaces on ships – 224 seafarers and 86 shore personnel in 197 accidents.
“We have crew members and shore workers placed under unrealistic time pressures to conduct high-risk tasks such as tank cleaning, and we have confusing instructions which vary from ship to ship as to what procedures and protocols must be followed”, said InterManager Secretary General, Captain Kuba Szymanski. Furthemore, he noted it’s not enough to blame the seafarers and offer additional training. Accident investigations must delve deeper into why people make the decisions they do and examine what external pressures impact those decisions. And ship architects and builders must work harder to design out these hazardous spaces where possible. No-one should lose their life doing their job.
The IMO subcommittee relating to the Carriage of Cargoes and Containers is in the process of revising Resolution A.1050(27) to ensure the safety of personnel entering enclosed spaces on ships, with a target completion next year. Resolution A.1050 (27) concerns the “recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships.”
Risk mitigation strategies, suggested by TT Club:
– Always assume that confined spaces are unsafe
– Create awareness of the risks and continually invest in staff training (recognising particularly the emotional reaction of would be rescuers)
– Procedures need to be robust but not overly burdensome or complex (impeding the tendency for short cuts is important)
– Embody a culture where time and resource are fully aligned to safety, regardless how minor the immediate task
– If entry is unavoidable, undertake a risk assessment to ensure that there is a safe system of work, including making sure there are emergency arrangements in place before work starts (always prepare for the worst)
– Where possible, ventilate the area before entry and ensure good general ventilation during work activities (use breathing apparatus if the air inside the space cannot be made fit to breathe)
– Test the air before entry; monitor it and the workers during the procedure, deploying a watcher who is physically present
– Ensure that people inside the space can communicate with those on the outside
– Restrict access to authorised personnel – such as implementing a permit to work system
– Ensure that the workers selected are competent and physically able to do the task; air quality monitoring or safety equipment is of little benefit if the users are insufficiently trained to use it
– Perform emergency rescue drills, providing practice in the process of safely removing an injured or unconscious person
InterManager strongly believes that the scope of the revision needs to be broad and comprehensive in order to take into account both the human element and ship design factors that have contributed to previous enclosed space incidents. “This is what’s needed to mitigate against, and hopefully prevent, such incidents occurring in the future,” Capt Szymanski noted.