Skip to content

Confined space – multiple fatalities

IMCA has received information about a confined space incident in there were multiple fatalities. The incident occurred at an oil well on land. A workman entered a water tank that contained water mixed with nitrogen, and collapsed. A co-worker entered after him in an attempt to rescue him, and likewise collapsed. He was followed by two further workers who also collapsed.

Water tank where incident occurred
Water tank where incident occurred

The supervisor realised that four workers were inside the tank, gave orders to drain the tank and then asked two further personnel to enter the tank for rescue purposes using safety lines.

Three of the rescued personnel were found unconscious and one semi-conscious. All four were evacuated to a nearby clinic for first aid and then to hospital for further treatment. The three men found unconscious did not recover and were declared dead by a local doctor.

Investigation revealed the following:

  • Procedures were not followed
  • There was no permit to work for confined space entry arranged in this case;
  • There were no multi-gas tests conducted (LEL, O2, COâ‚‚ and Hâ‚‚S) before confined space entry.
  • Personnel did not wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for task;
  • The rescue attempt was not properly planned or thought through.

Members are reminded that IMCA has dealt with both confined spaces and permits to work in the following pocket safety cards:

IMCA Safety Flashes summarise key safety matters and incidents, allowing lessons to be more easily learnt for the benefit of all. The effectiveness of the IMCA Safety Flash system depends on Members sharing information and so avoiding repeat incidents. Please consider adding [email protected] to your internal distribution list for safety alerts or manually submitting information on incidents you consider may be relevant. All information is anonymised or sanitised, as appropriate.

IMCA’s store terms and conditions ( apply to all downloads from IMCA’s website, including this document.

IMCA makes every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the documents it publishes, but IMCA shall not be liable for any guidance and/or recommendation and/or statement herein contained. The information contained in this document does not fulfil or replace any individual’s or Member's legal, regulatory or other duties or obligations in respect of their operations. Individuals and Members remain solely responsible for the safe, lawful and proper conduct of their operations.