Confined spaces, if not properly monitored, can create hazards for workers and rescuers. The oxygen level in a confined space can decrease because of work being done, such as welding, cutting, or brazing; or, it can be decreased by certain chemical reactions (rusting, paint drying) or through bacterial action (fermentation). An oxygen-deficient atmosphere has less than 19.5% available oxygen (O2) and any atmosphere with less than 20.8 % oxygen should not be entered.
According to Gard, the human brain would suffer irreversible brain damage after 3 minutes without oxygen.
Are seafarers that well-trained and ready to rescue or resuscitate personnel entering enclosed spaces for work within this time frame?
Gard is of the opinion that by the time one is rescued from an enclosed space, it is too late to provide any type of resuscitation.
Even when an enclosed space entry is properly supervised, the lack of preparedness for rescue makes it impossible to reverse the state of the casualty.
Overall, enclosed space is one of the most common reasons that result on different accidents on ship. When rescuing a victim from an enclosed space, the following steps are recommended for enhanced safety:
- Raise the alarm and inform Master
- Obtain necessary assistance and equipment including medical support
- Lifelines, breathing apparatus, resuscitation equipment and other items of rescue equipment are ready for use
- First aid squad fully equipped near to the scene
- Communication link established. Use approved VHF/UHF radios
- The officer in charge of the rescue must remain outside the space, where he can exercise the most effective control
- Before entry, officer in charge must inform in briefly the squads about the peculiarities of the relevant space (if possible consult relevant plan)
- During rescue operation adequate ventilation shall be provided continuously.