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IMCA launches 'Working in Confined Spaces' DVD

Published on 16 September 2014

More people die or are injured in enclosed spaces than through any other related onboard work activity – this despite numerous guidelines, safety regimes, operational procedures, manuals and assurance surveys.

One of the most public ‘confined space’ disasters was that of the Apollo 1 capsule on 27 January 1967. At 6.30pm that evening one of the astronauts reported a fire in the cockpit. All three – Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee – were dead in less than 20 seconds.

Another incident took place when an employee of an oil facility climbed down a ladder into an innocent-looking water tank that in reality contained a mixture of water and nitrogen and, starved of oxygen, the worker soon collapsed. His initial rescuers similarly succumbed resulting in three men declared dead soon after arriving at a nearby medical facility. Shockingly, figures show that for everyone who dies in a confined-space accident, two more die trying to rescue them.

These, and other, incidents that need never have happened feature in ‘Working in Confined Spaces’, a DVD released by IMCA to help champion improved awareness of the dangers, for the marine industry as a whole is in need of a culture change in everyday work practice at all levels to eradicate the needless deaths and injuries arising from entry into enclosed spaces. The DVD is supported by a useful pocket safety card on the subject.

Recognising a confined space and the danger it represents is key to ensuring that essential work can be completed safely. So, whatisa confined space?

IMCA’s Technical Director, Jane Bugler explains:”It is usually defined as any area that is enclosed or partially enclosed above or below ground, and where there will be a reasonably foreseeable risk of serious injury from hazardous substances or conditions within the space, or nearby.

“It might have limited openings for entry and exit, and an internal layout that could trap someone working in it. It might have unfavourable natural ventilation where a lack of oxygen could present a risk of asphyxiation; it could contain toxic gases or dust, perhaps explosive or flammable gases, or even loose powders or liquids that could overcome a worker.

“Our video looks at the risks and at the many and varied range of confines spaces in which people may be asked to work. They are dangerous places, especially if safety procedures and risk assessments are ignored,” she adds.”Before any work is carried out in one, you need to check: Is the work essential? Can it be done in another way?”

Any person who is required to enter a confined space should be physically and mentally able for that entry. The restricted nature of some manholes on certain vessels must be considered at the planning stage before committing workers of a larger physique. The risk assessment must be specific to the space being entered and findings must be reflected in the rescue plan.

Establishing set drills and procedures for entry into confined spaces, and rescue from them, is not enough to bring about the culture change in everyday work practice that is needed. It has to be second nature for everyone to stop, think and act safely. That means workers must be properly trained in the risks of confined spaces, and the employer must demonstrate due diligence and safety leadership when planning and assigning tasks.

Watching and sharing the IMCA DVD, which features a choice of languages (Arabic, English, French, Italian, Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Malay, Tagalog and Indonesian) will be 19 minutes that could save lives. It’s on the IMCA website – watch it today, and order copies for internal briefings too.

The DVD costs £10.00 + VAT for members and £20.00 + VAT for non-members and is available from [email protected] and from A set of 100 copies of the pocket safety card ‘Confined spaces can be deadly’ cost £25.00 for members and £50.00 for non-members. Members are able to download a print-ready version to which they can add a company logo and references.

Further information on IMCA and its work on behalf of its 970+ member companies in over 60 countries is available from and [email protected]. The association has LinkedIn and Facebook groups and its Twitter handle is @IMCAint

About IMCA

  • IMCA is an international association with well over 970 members in over 60 countries representing offshore, marine and underwater engineering companies. IMCA has four technical divisions, covering marine/specialist vessel operations, offshore diving, hydrographic survey and remote systems and ROVs, plus geographic sections for the Asia-Pacific, Central & North America, Europe & Africa, Middle East & India and South America regions. As well as a core focus on safety, the environment, competence and training, IMCA seeks to promote its members’ common interests, to resolve industry-wide issues and to provide an authoritative voice for its members.
  • IMCA Vision & Strategy. As a result of work and collective input in 2013, IMCA has redefined its stated core purpose to be”Improving performance in the marine contracting industry”. To achieve this goal, IMCA’s Vision & Strategy has been devised with two elements in mind: Core activities and ways of working. Targets and objectivesagainst which the association will measure progress in 2014 have been established. Note to Editors: We are more than happy to expand on this in tailor-made articles – just put us to the test, email [email protected] or phone her on +44(0)20 8241 1912 to explain what you would like covered, length, and deadline.
  • IMCA publishes some 200 guidance notes and technical reports – many are available for free downloading by members and non-members alike. These have been developed over the years and are extensively distributed. They are a definition of what IMCA stands for, including widely recognised diving and ROV codes of practice, DP documentation, marine good practice guidance, the Common Marine Inspection Document (CMID) – now available electronically as eCMID, safety recommendations, outline training syllabi and the IMCA competence scheme guidance. In addition to the range of printed