Just complying with new enclosed space regulations is not enough

New enclosed space regulations come into force from 1 July 2016
New enclosed space regulations come into force from 1 July 2016

Wilhelmsen Ships Service (WSS) has advised that ship operators must combine vigilance, structure and care when enforcing the latest SOLAS regulation for safeguarding crews from the dangers of gas when entering enclosed spaces. But supplying a vessel with a single, portable, four gas detection unit as required to do so by the IMO is not enough on its own.

The new enclosed space regulations, which come into force on 1st July 2016, requires ships on international voyages to have at least one unit that can detect the presence of oxygen, flammable gases or vapours, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.

Says Andrew Sherriff, WSS’s Business Manager for Marine Products – Safety Solutions, “The regulation musn’t be seen in isolation. It is sound legislating from the IMO, but it comes with a burden of responsibility for operators.”

Crucially, says Sherriff, the detection units have to be used by individuals entering enclosed spaces, or tanks and not left unused in a drawer. They need to be ‘bump-tested’ before use, regularly visually inspected and their batteries charged.

“It sounds simple, but it is very serious. Also don’t forget the batteries and sensor will need replacing after 30 months to be on the safe side, or when their runtime drops below that of the shortest onboard shift. A failure to do this can cause some units to ‘forget’ they are equipped with a dual-range sensor for combustible gases,” he says.

The unit’s audible and visual alarms must also be checked regularly and free of grime and dirt, which can obstruct them while the detector’s housing should be free of cracks. If it isn’t, water can corrode the inner circuit boards and if the detector isn’t ‘gas tight’, it can cause explosions in the worst case scenarios, adds Sherriff.

Other safety precautions include making sure the units are stored properly to prevent their sensors becoming contaminated. Calibration checks are also essential. “Well informed, regimented crew members will be able to safely use and check the basic robustness and functions of a four-gas detection unit,” he says.

“The regulations must be backed up by the right mix of everyday care and professional maintenance. By doing so this new regulation will really fulfil its potential to safeguard assets, operations and, most importantly of all, lives,” concludes Sherriff.

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