In the morning of Jul 24, tragedy struck in the port of Portocel, Brazil when three port workers died and one was hospitalized after they inhale toxic gases in a cargo hold of bulk carrier Sepetiba Bay. (IMO No. 9496343) The ship was offloading wood which was treated for protection with gas, according to the local trade union. One worker went down into the hold and lost consciousness. The other three workers tried to help him but were also affected. One of the workers managed to climb to the cargo deck, but the other three workers lost their lives.
We have seen this time and again. Improper entry procedures followed when entering an enclosed space and the rush to rescue a fallen colleague without considering the ramifications of the hastily taken actions.
Drills are conducted time and again, the procedure is hammered into the head:
Do not enter before gas freeing in conducted.
Do not enter before testing the atmosphere.
Do not enter without protective gear.
Do not enter alone.
And even then we continue to have fatalities.
In this case though, these were port workers. Do they get the same training? Are they also trained to rescue from enclosed spaces? Other questions that will be raised was whether the proper procedure for gas freeing was followed by the ship personnel. Will the fact that the ship was Liberian flagged cast aspersions on the investigation about rules not being strongly enforced? The hastiness to rescue their colleague led to the loss of three lives. one can only hope that we focus on making enclosed space entries safer for our colleagues.