Enclosed Spaces

Q. What is an enclosed space?
The enclosed space is a place that is unventilated, kept closed for a long time, not easily accessible and likely to be deficient in oxygen due the presence of oxygen depleting conditions or material. If the size of entrance is limited with probably no exit, is also an enclosed space.

Q. Give some examples of enclosed spaces?
The enclosed spaces may be as follows:
Tanks: Cargo tanks, fresh water tanks, ballast tanks, double bottoms tanks, fuel oil tanks, lube oil tanks & sewage tanks, etc.
Spaces: Double hull spaces, cofferdam spaces, void spaces, duct keel space, inter-barrier spaces, thruster spaces, etc.
Small lockers/rooms: Chain lockers, paint lockers, battery lockers, pump-rooms, compressor rooms, engine crankcases, CO2 rooms, lockers, etc. The cargo holds in certain loaded or part loaded conditions may have some toxic gas or at atmosphere deficient in oxygen.

Q. What preparations are done for enclosed space entry?
The entire operation of enclosed space entry must be planned and conducted carefully under an experienced and responsible officer. The risk related to such an operation must be identified and assessed. The arrangements required in respect of rescue are kept ready at entrance so that these can be made use of in case of an emergency. A tool box meeting should always be conducted. The person or persons entering the enclosed space must be cautioned in respect of the hazards. The risk as well as benefit of lifeline must be discussed. Resuscitation and other first aid equipment are kept ready. Only the required number of people may be present instead of crowding the entrance. In certain cases, the Neil Robertson stretcher is kept handy. The place as far as practicable must be well lit without introducing any ignitable material. The ventilation must be kept on throughout and started well before the entry. The atmosphere must be duly tested. Any possibility of fresh pollution must be eliminated. The place at entry should be made clear of grease, etc. The procedure in respect of enclosed space entry permit is duly followed. The signals in respect of any emergency including the effect on health must be pre-determined. Adequate signs and barriers against all openings to prevent accidental or unauthorized entry must be exhibited. A backup light must always be carried when working in enclosed spaces.

Q. Any additional precautions in respect of ventilation?
In respect of ventilating an enclosed space, the following points are important:

  • de-ballasting a tank does not guarantee a safe atmosphere in the tank;
  • pure oxygen must never be used to ventilate; and
  • inert gas fans should not be used to provide fresh air ventilation.

Q. What precautions must be taken, once the job is accomplished?
Upon completion, the place must be closed again ensuring that everyone is out. The required documentation including the permit and the entries regarding start and completion of the job is complied with.  

Q. What factors must be considered by a person working in an enclosed space?   
The person working in an enclosed space must continuously keep his senses open for any possible danger or an unknown indication. He should be continuously in touch with a person at entrance. He should not proceed beyond the stipulated extent of job. The atmosphere must be tested as frequently as is required. In case a co-worker collapses due some gas, immediate help from outside must be sought instead of trying to help the co-worker unguarded.  The indications of any emergency must be identified immediately. The job must be aborted upon any failure of safety measures or indications of unusual / unsafe events.

Q. In respect of the enclosed spaces, what information must be included in SMS?
The safety management system should provide the safety measures in respect of the various key and critical operations. There should be provision for drills as required by the regulations. A checklist should be provided in respect of the enclosed space entry. SMS must also provide the equipment necessary during the task and in a situation of emergency. The sequence of events and procedures before, during and after an enclosed space task must be provided.    
The training manual must be included in the SMS which should include the following:

  • provision and schedule of relevant training and drills;
  • identifying the dangers of enclosed spaces;
  • entry procedures;
  • escape and rescue of personnel from enclosed spaces;
  • duties of personnel involved in enclosed space entry; and
  • guidance on safety equipment.

Q. What are the various causes which may lead to fire or explosion?
One of the main causes for such fire or explosion taking place is inappropriate method of testing the atmosphere. The space might contain the gases or the concentration favorable for the fire or explosion. The risk assessment must be properly done in case any hot work has to be carried out. During the job, the testing of atmosphere must go on as required.
Only intrinsically safe equipment must be used in potentially flammable conditions. As a precautionary measure the fire extinguishing equipment must be always accompanied. Rescue and a fire fighting party must be stand-by at the entrance.

Q. What may cause the tripping of a person in the enclosed space?
A person may fall or trip owing to the slippery surface or inadequate lighting. Invariably, the shoes may not be proper. At times, the person may not have taken sufficient rest or may not be well. A person working in enclosed spaces must have worn appropriate PPE.  A breathing apparatus should be kept handy or must be used where necessary. The root cause may also be found as the atmosphere lacking oxygen.

Q. What equipment are generally required in respect of an enclosed space?
The various equipment are as follows:

  1. Fire fighting and rescue equipment
  2. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  3. Boiler suit, safety helmet & safety footwear
  4. Goggles or other eye protection
  5. Gloves of appropriate type
  6. Any other mask appropriate for the work
  7. The equipment required for the actual work.

Q. Describe the enclosed space entry permit.
An enclosed space permit should provide all the relevant information and must be a fresh permit rather than the re-used one. It should state the location and details of the work to be done. If an assessment was done, then the results of the preliminary tests carried out, should be stated.
The permit should specify the period of its validity (which should not exceed 24 hours) and any time limits applicable to the work which it authorizes. The authorizing officer should ensure that all measures specified as necessary have been taken.

Q. What are the essential parts of a work permit?
A work permit essentially should have four parts:
a. Scope of work including location, extent, type of work and the designation of space.
b. Checklist.
There should be an exhaustive list to ensure that no points are missed out. The following are ensured:

  1. Risk assessment of the job and safety issues carried out?
  2. Thorough ventilation?
  3. Proper instruments used to test the atmosphere?
  4. Atmosphere found safe?
  5. Fire fighting and resuscitation facility at entrance?
  6. Communication arrangements appropriate and adequate?
  7. Lighting arrangements?
  8. Lighting methods and the equipment safe for the type of work?
  9. Illumination adequate?
  10. Equipment intrinsically safe?
  11. Risk assessment done?
  12. Breathing apparatus handy?

c. Certificate and verification of checks.
d. Cancellation of certificate.

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