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Hot work whilst working at height in a confined space – job was stopped

What happened

During a site visit to a vessel, it was observed that a  third-party contractor’s welder was standing on the wooden platform (the actual height was over 1.80m) inside a confined space (a ballast tank) doing some flame-cutting jobs. No fall protection guards were installed around the worker, not was the worker wearing fall arrest equipment.

Welder’s initial position without any fall protection
Temporary solution (full body harness attached to the tripod system with inertia reel)

The job was stopped immediately and a temporary alternative working method was arranged where the worker wore a full body harness attached to with an inertia  reel to a tripod.

What went wrong

  • The personnel authorizing these activities – working at height doing hot work within a confined space:
    • Made no Permit to Work application for hot work nor for working at height nor for working in a confined space;
    • Did not conduct a review of the risk assessment for the task in hand;
  • Inadequate supervision: there was no proper Control of Work by vessel crew or management at the site before the job started, and no ongoing verification of safe working as the job continued;
  • There was a lack of hazard appreciation and risk perception by the persons involved; it took someone coming in from outside, observing the job, to actually stop it. 
  • It was easy to work unsafely: crew members misunderstood differing internal company procedural requirements for working at height;
  • Various hazards were not recognised at all. Had the worker fallen within the tank, protruding metal elements meant that there was high potential for a very serious injury.

Actions taken locally

  • Reiteration of importance of thorough Risk Assessment, Permit to Work process, and Control of Work, including regular monitoring;
  • Ensured more robust control of Working at Height activities and prioritized availability of engineering controls (e.g. a scaffolding platform).

Members may wish to refer to:

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