The Invisible Killer: Mike Robarts

Killer 2

– Okay, Cap’n, I wish you and your crew a safe voyage and we look forward to seeing you again.

– Thanks, Pilot, and all the best; the 3rd mate will show you the way
down to the pilot door.

In the passage way, the 3rd mate is about 15 metres ahead of you and starts to descend the ladder down the hatch. He collapses in front of your eyes – what do you do, where do you go, how do you raise the alarm – more importantly, what should you do?

What about another scenario?

‘Okay, Pilot, I’ll just check the engine room before we go. Have a cup of tea and I’ll see you on the pontoon in ten minutes,’ says the Coxswain. It’s a nice day and maybe there’s a newspaper to read onboard. You hear the engines already running on the launch. Onboard you notice the engine room hatch open and see the Coxswain is face down: he’s collapsed – what do you do, where do you go, how do you raise the alarm – more importantly, what should you do?

Both of the above are hypothetical situations, and luckily there are no reports of incidents to pilots. However, take a look at it from this point of view: you’re on an inward passage and all is going well, then there is a telephone call to the bridge, the master then turns to you in a shaken state and reports that he has three crew members collapsed in a space. Yes, he has a Safety Management System and emergency scenarios to deal with such an incident, but how is this going to impact on the pilotage. What would you do?

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency held an industry workshop titled Enclosed Spaces. The number of accidents and subsequent fatalities are reoccurring and the purpose of the workshop was to invite members of the industry to discuss what could be done and also to raise awareness. There were over 120 delegates from shipping companies, marine consultants, trade unions, maritime colleges, professional associations and institutes, all bringing a broad level
of knowledge to the room.

killer 1

Presentations were provided by the MAIB and MCA about recent accidents and historical accidents which led to industry guidance. One interesting presentation was given by Tyneside Fire and Rescue Service, who discussed how they risk assess and prepare for an enclosed space rescue and the difficulty dealing with emotions of an individual faced with a potential rescue and not having the proper rescue equipment. They stressed a need to mitigate further casualties with those involved in a rescue by using training, planning and proper equipment.

The MCA were keen to hear ideas from all sectors of the industry, as enclosed spaces not only affect crew members but also stevedores and shore workers. Port Skills and Safety organisations have already been consulted on this and were present
at the workshop.

What was emphasized was how quickly air can be contaminated by another space that may leak. This hazard was highlighted in an accident on board a fishing boat, where the fumes from the bowthruster moved to a relative safe space adjacent to it. Rust in space and in spaces not properly maintained can also
remove oxygen.

Industry guidance: MGN 423 (M) Entry into dangerous spaces

The MCA have also produced a booklet titled Entry into enclosed space – your safety at sea 6.

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