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Risks associated with work in confined spaces and hazardous cargoes
Despite most seafarers being aware of significant risks when entering confined spaces and cargo holds filled with organic materials, fatal accidents still occur too frequently under such conditions in the global merchant fleet.

Declan Duff S-42/18
On 16 March 2018 the bulk vessel Declan Duff was unloading coal in Oxelösund port. A temporary stevedore died of suffocation during this procedure when he climbed down an unventilated spiral ladder into one of the holds. The ship’s personnel had informed the port prior to unloading that the spiral ladders were enclosed and that they could be a risk factor. This information about the spiral ladders being enclosed and that open straight ladders should be used instead was not passed on to all the port workers. It has not been possible to clarify when and by whom the spiral ladder cover was opened. The accident report from the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority states that the dock worker had not studied the section on Unloading Bulk Coal and Coke in his introductory training and he had not unloaded coal previously. He also lacked specific training and full qualifications as a machine operator. The task manager on the shift in question had no training for task management and the resource planner did not have complete information on the training and experience of the deceased dock worker. There were also several indications of poor procedures in the port. The dock worker probably used the spiral ladder due to ignorance of the risks, which resulted from a lack of training and no experience of unloading coal. In addition, he had not been informed about the risks associated with the enclosed spiral ladder. The fact that the ladders down to hold seven were laterally reversed was probably part of the reason for using the spiral ladder. Underlying factors were the absence of a sufficiently organised working method for communicating critical safety information and effective systems for detecting and correcting procedural shortcomings.

Källa: Statens haverikommission

Previous accidents of a similar nature
The International Bulk Terminals Association (IBTA) has compiled a review of fatal accidents in connection with the transport, loading or unloading of bulk cargoes. The review shows that between 1999 and April 2018, 88 people died in 55 accidents as a result of suffocation or carbon monoxide poisoning. Of these, 76 died on hold ladders, 9 in cargo spaces and 3 in adjacent areas. 20 of the accidents were related to ships carrying coal.

Source: Swedish Accident Investigation Authority

Statistics in Sweden
During the same time period as above, there were six fatal accidents registered in Sweden in which crew members and stevedores lost their lives after entering a hold or unventilated area nearby. The cargoes were organic materials such as wood products, coal or fish. In four of the six events, other people tried to enter the areas without respirators and were also injured. On two occasions even the rescuers died. Even if a person is rescued from an oxygen-depleted space, there is a high risk that their brain is so damaged that the effects are lifelong. In one of the most notorious accidents on Saga Spray, one able seaman died, a stevedore was badly injured and three crewmembers, two stevedores and two ambulance staff were taken to hospital.

Recommendations for work in confined spaces
The IMO Resolution A 1050(27) with recommendations for work in confined spaces on board ships underlines the importance of procedures for entering enclosed spaces and the crew being aware of such procedures. It also states that doors and covers must be locked if they are not in use. A door or cover for an enclosed space that is opened for venting may mistakenly be assumed to indicate a safe atmosphere. The entrance should then be watched by a guard or blocked by a barrier, such as a rope or a chain with a warning sign.

Source: Swedish Accident
Investigation Authority

Preventive options
One way of reducing the risk of such accidents is to use an oxygen meter and have respiratory masks easily accessible. Crews and other employees must be trained in the use of such equipment so that people trying to rescue an injured person do not enter the space without protective equipment or with protective equipment that is incorrectly fitted. Everybody knows that time is a crucial factor in such situations, but entering an enclosed space without respiratory equipment is not an option since it often results in more people being injured. It is clearly essential to have well-drilled procedures for operating in enclosed spaces and workers having the correct training and knowledge of the risks associated with different cargoes.

Swedish Accident Investigation Authority

Accident investigations
According to the EU directive 2009/18/EU on the basic principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime sector, accidents classified as very serious must always be investigated.

In Sweden, the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority (SHK) is the designated authority for maritime accidents. SHK investigates accidents on Swedish ships worldwide and on foreign vessels in Swedish territorial waters.

Ongoing investigations of civil shipping accidents in 2018
Fire on the vehicle carrier MIGNON in the South China Sea. Date of incident: 04/04/2018, S-59/18

Makassar Highway – Grundstötning utanför Västervik. Händelsedatum: 2018-07-23, S-148/18

Loke – capsizing off Vaxholm.
Date of incident: 01/08/2018, S-168/18

Envik – serious injury in connection with mooring work in Degerhamn, Kalmar County. Date of incident: 27/11/2018


Mari III – Grounding off Lysekil, Västra Götaland County. Date of incident: 10/12/2018, S-245/18

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