The incident

In the morning of 26 December 2019, whilst La Solognais was at sea, the second engineer and the wiper were assigned to clean and inspect the vessel’s grey water tank. The atmosphere inside the tank was measured, following which, the tank was washed.

The wiper entered the tank and, on reaching its bottom, fell unconscious. He was immediately rescued by the crew members, and first aid was administered.

About two hours later, the vessel was diverted to the nearest port where the wiper was evacuated and transferred to a hospital ashore. Tests at the hospital revealed that the wiper had suffered from the effects of possible hydrogen sulphide inhalation.

 

Conclusions

  1. The injured wiper was diagnosed to have suffered from possible acute diffuse toxic encephalopathy caused by inhalation of a high concentration of H2S.
  2. The injured wiper lost consciousness and fell inside the grey water tank, soon after he went inside.
  3. The chin strap of the injured wiper’s helmet may have not been properly secured.
  4. Waste and effluents collecting inside the grey water tank may be a cause for the presence of high concentrations of H2S gas.
  5. It is highly likely that the presence of H2S in the grey water tank may have not been known to the crew members.
  6. The measurements of gases inside the grey water tank after two hours of ventilation, suggested that the tank was safe for entry.
  7. The atmosphere inside the grey water tank had not been remeasured, following the washing with sea water.
  8. Although the wiper was not wearing a safety harness, the enclosed space entry permit indicated that he was wearing one.
  9. There were several discrepancies in the entries of the enclosed space entry permit and the execution of the task.
  10. The crew members responded quickly to the emergency, minimizing the harmful consequences on the wiper’s health.

 

Actions taken

Following the accident, the company:

  1. immediately circulated its initial report within its fleet and reminded all vessels to strictly comply with the procedures relating to enclosed space entry;
  2. issued a Fleet Notice, instructing all masters within its fleet to seek the company’s approval prior to entry into any enclosed space;
  3. designated the chief officer as the sole person responsible to measure the atmosphere of an enclosed space, irrespective of whether the space was on deck or in the engine-room;
  4. promulgated a poster and questionnaire amongst its fleet, designed to improve crew training on the procedures and risk awareness for safe entry into enclosed spaces.

 

Recommendations

  • The company is recommended to issue a Fleet Notice, highlighting the importance of accurate recording of data on its permits to work.
  • The flag State Administration is recommended to issue an Information Notice to emphasize the hazards that may be associated with grey water tanks and the presence of H2S gas.

 

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