Do you know how they die in enclosed spaces?

Enclosed spaces are one of the most hazardous areas to work. The atmosphere inside an enclosed space change sooner as expected. One moment it is safe to enter, after a few minutes, it suddenly become hazardous. Many seafarers died working inside an enclosed space.

Despite from the strict implementation of regulations regarding entry into enclosed space, including relevant checklists, still there are casualties?

It proves to show that there are no bulletproof system regarding enclosed space, if the seafarers on-board tends to deviate from what is required by the regulation and their company policies.

The seafarer must embrace the safety guidelines imposed by their company’s SMS.

Every person who are involved in the actual work inside an enclosed space should remember, and be aware of the hazards that exists inside an enclosed space. And force themselves to minimize those risk in order to make their job safe.

Human error plays a big role in every accident. Even if we did the paperwork’s correctly, it is our ability to make decision that has the last say. If we make the wrong decision, we could either jeopardize the safety of ourselves or the person working with us.

The decisions that leads to death

Every kind of work on-board the ship has a relevant risk. Our goal is to minimize those risk.

Let us say that an Ordinary Seaman (O/S) is interested and willing to enter an enclosed space, although we know that he is aspiring to learn the job, and capable of the job, there is still a qualification missing; that is “Lack of Experience. A proper toolbox talk before doing the task should be done, and a senior seaman, normally the Able Bodied Seaman (A/B) should accompany him inside the tank.

Let us assume that prior entry all the necessary atmosphere test and checklist is completed, the O/S insisted to enter first. You should prevent him from doing this. His lack of experience can lead to certain accidents due to wrong judgment of the situation.

The officer in charge or senior crew should go in first making sure that it is safe to do the initial entry of the space. The senior crew in doing the job inside the enclosed space is also the last person to exit the area once the work is completed. If you let simple things left unnoticed, it will later on lead to accident.

Let us look into a case of a chemical tanker, conducting tank cleaning job.

A chemical tanker was carrying out tank cleaning while at port. The deck crew headed by the Bosun was already on deck near Cargo Tank No. 1 Center, wherein they have just finished cleaning it. Near that area the tanks that are opened are No. 1 Port (Gas Free – Safe for Entry), 1 Center (Gas Free – Safe for Entry), and 1 Starboard (Gas Free – Atmosphere not yet tested, Not Safe for Entry).

They are packing up their tools and moving back in the aft to continue there cleaning in one of the aft cargo tanks. The Bosun, A/B’s, and the O/S went inside the tank and told the Deck Cadet to lower their tools inside the tank.

While the Bosun was checking the bucket he noticed that one tool was missing and remembered that he left it inside Cargo Tank No. 1 Center. He told the Deck Cadet by the radio to go back to Cargo Tank No. 1 Center and take the tools from inside the tank and lower it to them so they can use it.

Imagine this: Tank No. 1 Center and 1 Starboard hatches are close to each other. The Deck Cadet returned to the location but got confused which tank to enter. They didn’t put any notice which tank is gas free and safe to enter. He was trying to prove to the Bosun that he knows the job so he didn’t call him again to verify. The Deck Cadet entered the wrong tank (No. 1 Starboard) and died inside the tank.

The next thing we heard is the siren of ambulance at the port of Rotterdam where the ship is berthed and carrying out their tank cleaning. All that remains are stories of seaman from that ship who are still very sorry of letting the young cadet do the job, without considering his lack of experience, just because they want to finish early.

We are the reason why this happens

Have you heard of the phrase “I have done that several times, I know what to do”, or the phrase “Don’t tell me what to do, I have more experience than you”. These are the phrases that causes a person to make wrong judgment in the end. Overconfidence make us careless.

Individuals that are not aware of the repercussion of their action or overconfident of their action are the ones who have a big chance to have accident. The bad part is that sometimes they are not the casualty, but the person working with us, became the casualty.


All enclosed space related accident are caused by doing shortcuts. By skipping some of the safety precautions implemented on-board the ship, you are increasing the risk of the job you are doing. The System for Safety that you are using on-board is not your enemy, it is a guideline on how you should do your job correctly and safely. You must understand that it is for your own good. If you keep doing shortcuts, chances are, you will always work with risk waiting at your back for an accident to happen.

Ability of the person doing the job:

We must remember that every critical job on the ship involves certain skills to complete it. If you are not assessing the capabilities of the person you are assigning to do the job, chances are, you are putting a person in danger.

Remember to delegate the right job to the right people. If you want a new comer to learn a particular job, let an experience person coach him so that he will be guided to do the job by himself later on his career.

If you want to add more into this; please say it in the comment below. I appreciate it if you can share your ideas into this article.

There is a possibility that you will forget this

Even if there are a lot of placards posted, safety letters sent, and updates on the system and checklist done; but the people implementing it on-board are not doing the right procedures on an actual job, none of this system will work. Chances of an accident to happen is very high.

Risk assessment is done, but sometimes it is just for the sake of the documentation of the risk and company requirements. The seaman does not care, for they usually rely on their skills and not on the paperworks.

Common sense also plays a vital role in the work aspect.

For example; if you are climbing a straight ladder holding on a bucket of tools, there is a big probability that you will loose grip of the stairs and fall in the middle of your climb.

If you are entering a tank without calling someone as your lookout, chances are, something might happen with you somewhere inside the tank and nobody will know where you are.

We must be in control of the situation and not the situation controlling us. Remember, a safe work place demands continuous adherence to safety policies and implementing safety guidelines necessary for the job.

But don’t just stop reading.

Leave a comment below or read further. I have other suggestions for you to read. Just write your email and subscribe to our newsletter for more updates.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field