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Thursday, August 15, 2019 

Norwegian risk management specialist Gard has once again drawn attention to the inherent dangers in working in enclosed spaces onboard ships.

Gard quotes United States Coast Guard's (USCG) recently issued Marine Safety Alert 04-19, Confined Spaces: Silent & Invisible Killers. This highlights an incident where three persons were asphyxiated while working onboard a laid-up Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU), and two additional persons were killed when trying to rescue a fellow crewmember – because they entered the space without wearing personal protective equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus.

Although it may be mandatory to carry out enclosed space entry drills on board, it is also important to ensure that the drills are realistic. Those involved in a drill must understand that its purpose is to prevent accidents and not simply to tick the box to comply with regulatory requirements. According to the USCG, several studies have shown that humans often miss the obvious signs of a dangerous situation while under stress and because their focus is upon another effort or action that needs to be accomplished. In fact, more than 50% of the fatalities in enclosed spaces may have occurred during attempts to rescue co-workers.

Gard points out that training and awareness are both vital, and has produced a range of publications and videos. Gard says that all relevant personnel should be given proper training to help them recognise, evaluate and control hazards associated with entry into enclosed spaces. It is also important that procedures encourage a more risk-based thinking in planning tasks onboard - and that the crew members are also involved in the risk assessment process.

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