The Nautical Institute has issued Mars Report No.33 regarding fuel tank cleaning and welding work issues.
Two men, one aged just 17 and both untrained in enclosed space entry, had been tasked to carry out cleaning and welding work prior to repair work going forward in a small vessel’s fuel tank. The tank, 4.5m long and 2.25m deep, was accessed through a small manhole from the vessel’s net store. The two men were told to use buckets to empty the tank’s residual seawater and diesel (approximately 600 litres), and then rags to clean the inside in preparation for the welding repair.
On the first day, the two workers wore normal work overalls and had no face masks. In order to provide some respite from fumes and the cramped working space they swapped roles regularly in the tank. One recalled having a heavy feeling in his chest and finding it difficult to breath when he was in the tank. He said he felt dizzy and faint.
The next day, the two men prepared the inside of the tank for welding work. One man used a grinder, causing sparks to fall on his workmate, who was holding a lamp to illuminate the work. This grinding created significant amounts of fumes. At one point the two men, finding the working conditions less than adequate, abandoned the job and contacted staff at the port harbour office for advice. The Harbourmaster visited the vessel and halted further work after the company failed to provide documentation and permits to show the tank was safe to work in.
For more information about the findings of the report, please click at Mars Report No.33 - Lack of Safety Leadership leads to a confined space close call
Source: The Nautical Instute