We have recently learnt of a tragic incident involving confined space entry. The two individuals were assigned to de-ballast 12″ of water from a tank on a cargo barge. This entailed opening the hatch cover an accessing the tank to position the pump suction hose in the water. The foreman who entered first collapsed. The rigger, on seeing his colleague had collapsed, entered the tank to rescue him. The alarm was subsequently raised and both the individuals were recovered by personnel wearing breathing sets. Tragically they were found to be dead. The cause of death was oxygen deprivation. The atmosphere immediately above the water level was found to contain no oxygen.
There was a confined space entry permit procedure in place and the procedure was mandatory where confined space entry was necessary. No reason was found as to why the foreman elected to enter the tank on this occasion as he was familiar with the procedure and had used it a few days before.
The company involved has modified its procedure to require on all confined space work that the atmosphere in confined spaces be tested regardless of whether entry is necessary or not.