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Near-miss: Missing grating on platform in fuel tank

IMCA has received a report of a near-miss involving workers entering a cargo tank. Workers descending a ladder into the tank found that there was no grating platform at the foot of the ladder, leaving an unprotected drop to the bottom of the tank.

The grating platform was of a commonly used removable type with hinges, often used when the inspection access hatch is combined with the access for hoisting injured persons and/or for maintenance purposes or tank entry sampling. It had been left in a lifted or open position earlier to permit equipment or tools to be hoisted from the tank. No information concerning this had been passed to the workers descending into the tank.

No accident took place, but it could have led to be a very serious casualty had it not been discovered.

The following lessons learnt have been noted:

  • The hinged design, though convenient, may compromise safety, as it introduces a significant potential hazard for a tank entry team. A fatal accident has previously been reported where a similar platform was fitted
  • When a hinged grating platform is installed:
    • the risk that the platform is left in the open position should be taken into account in the procedures for tank safe entry and discussed at toolbox meetings prior to entering the tank
    • cargo tank entry hatches should be fitted with warning signs
  • The recommended checklist for safe entry of confined spaces should be modified to include:
    • a check that the platform is in the correct position before descent
    • a check that the platform locking pin has been refitted after the platform has been replaced
  • The safe operation procedure for opening and closing of the platform should be included in the permanent means of access manual (PMA) for newly built vessels.
Tank entry and hinged grating platform
Tank entry and hinged grating platform

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