TT Club draws attention to the life-threatening hazards caused by enclosed and confined spaces and presents measures to limit the phenomenon.
s TT Club explains, confined or enclosed spaces are common in the supply chain industry. Toxic gases produced by some cargoes as well as leakages, residual fumigants and other causes of a reduced oxygen environment are the chief problems, with 60% of fatalities suffered by would be rescuers.
The primary cause of decreasing oxygen levels is the presence of other gases, such as carbon dioxide. Because the effects of oxygen deprivation can become incapacitating quickly and there are no evident symptoms, effective communication for crew to understand the dangers is essential, TT Club highlights.
The key risk is that workers may not readily recognise spaces that could present danger. The cargo hold of a ship is a leading example, but containers and other cargo transport units pose similar risks
… said Peregrine Storrs-Fox, Risk Management Director at TT
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
Developing and undertaking drills to practice rescues are crucial steps in mitigating the risks, as are a number of other strategies including risk assessments of working in potentially hazardous spaces, discouraging short cuts in work practices and testing, monitoring and venting air in confined areas.
… added Peregrine Storrs-Fox, Risk Management Director at TT